Tens of thousands of Greeks staged a mass rally in Athens Sunday, urging the government not to compromise in a festering name row with neighbouring Macedonia.
Organisers claimed some 1.5 million people from across Greece and the Greek diaspora turned out to express their opposition to attempts by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government to broker a deal.
Police put the figure at around 140,000.
As a huge Greek flag flew over central Syntagma Square from atop a crane, Greeks from all over the country and abroad chanted “Hands off Macedonia”, “Macedonia is Greek” and “We won’t leave until we are vindicated”.
Among those in the cross-generation crowd were former PM Antonis Samaras – who was foreign minister when the name row began in 1991 – in addition to mayors, senior clerics, army officers and monks.
Keynote speaker Mikis Theodorakis, the renowned Zorba the Greek composer and resistance icon, called on the government to hold a referendum before taking a decision.
“Macedonia was, is and will forever be Greek,” 92-year-old Theodorakis told the cheering crowd of protesters.
“If a government considers signing on behalf of our country… there is no doubt it must first ask the Greek people,” he said, calling the neighbouring northern state “illegitimate”.
Athens objects to Macedonia’s name, arguing it suggests that Skopje has claims to the territory and heritage of Greece’s historic northern region of the same name.
“Macedonians united Greece against the (Persian Empire),” said Nina Gatzoulis of the US Pan-Macedonian Association, arguing that a Greek climbdown on the name issue would create “permanent instability” in the region.
However, leftist Tsipras has been considering a resolution to the 27-year-old dispute, angering many opposition members and his own nationalist coalition partners.
Several protesters wore traditional garb, including the uniform of Greek guerrillas who fought Bulgarian bands and Ottoman forces in Macedonia in the early 20th century.
“Cretan eagles lie in the earth of Macedonia,” a Cretan representative told the crowd. “We tell our sister, Macedonia, we will not allow anyone to carve you up.”
Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/04/greece-holds-mass-protests-row-macedonia/