Thousands of people have taken to the streets in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, to protest the potential change of the name of the country.
Supporters of Macedonia’s biggest opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, gathered in front of the government building in Skopje on Saturday, waving Macedonian flags and holding banners that read “Macedonia will win.”
“We came here united, to preserve our centuries-old... our great-great grandfathers’ name of the Republic of Macedonia. Only and nothing but Republic of Macedonia. We’ll not accept anything else,” said Andrej Filipovski, a Skopje resident.
The protesters said the government had harmed national interests by discussing a possible new name for the country with neighboring Greece.
Macedonia and Greece have been holding talks to resolve a long-running dispute over the use by the former Yugoslav republic of the name Macedonia, which Athens says implies a territorial claim because its northern province has the same name.
Greece’s left-wing government has proposed agreeing to a composite name for the country that would include the word Macedonia but ensure a clear differentiation from the Greek province.
The issue has hampered Macedonia’s hopes of joining the European Union (EU) and NATO, as Greece has the power to veto its membership bid.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said a day earlier that negotiations with Greece to resolve the 27-year-old row over the name were in “the final stages.”
Participants in the Saturday protest also called for early elections next year, citing the poor state of the economy.
VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski told the crowd that the prime minister “will do irreparable damage, from which there is no coming back. VMRO-DPMNE is against any change of the constitution with an aim to change our name.”
The opposition party led the country for nearly 10 years until 2016.
This article has been adapted from its original source.