Saturday 23 February 2019

Violence breaks out at Macedonia protest

Under fire: Police officers come under attack from Molotov cocktails during protests in Athens. Photo: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Under fire: Police officers come under attack from Molotov cocktails during protests in Athens. Photo: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Michele Kambas

Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters outside parliament as tens of thousands of Greeks rallied in Athens against next week's parliamentary vote to ratify a name deal with Macedonia.

Central Athens turned into a sea of people holding blue and white Greek flags as thousands came from all over the country to rally against the accord to name the ex-Yugoslav state North Macedonia.

A member of the riot police goes on the offensive. Photo: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
A member of the riot police goes on the offensive. Photo: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Many Greeks believe the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim over their country's own northern region of that name.

The issue evokes strong emotions among Greeks who consider Macedonia, the ancient kingdom ruled by Alexander the Great, to be an integral part of their homeland and heritage.

"We cannot stomach this deal, to give away our Macedonia, our history," said pensioner Amalia Savrami (67), as she waved a large Greek flag on Athens's Syntagma Square.

"Macedonia is Greek, period."

Macedonia declared independence in 1991, avoiding the violence that accompanied much of the break-up of Yugoslavia.

A vote on the deal is set to take place in the Greek parliament this week.

Greek police said that 10 officers were wounded in clashes with demonstrators after being attacked with stones and petrol bombs.

Irish Independent

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