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Greece and Macedonia are fighting over the right to use the name "Macedonia"

Macedonia wants to join the EU and NATO, but Greece won't allow it until the naming dispute is solved.

by Andrew Potter
Feb 12 2018, 8:39pm

It's been almost 500 years since Shakespeare first asked what's in a name, but in Europe, the debate is still roiling — with consequences that are far more global though no less dire than the ones that befell Verona's two star-crossed lovers.

The modern-day fight takes place in Macedonia, which has been locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with its southern neighbor, Greece, which wants exclusive use of the word "Macedonia." Macedonia's prime minister has even offered to rename the country in an effort to settle the decades-old dispute, but the two countries can’t seem to settle on a replacement.

The country of Macedonia was formed in 1991 after the breakup of Yugoslavia, but Greece has a large northern region with the same name, established long before the country ever existed. The Greek region of Macedonia has its origins in the Ottoman Empire, which is generally considered to include parts of Greece, Bulgaria, and the country currently known as Macedonia.

But that might not be true for long. On February 4, more than 100,000 Greeks protested in the capital, Athens, demanding Macedonia find another name. Greek anger on the issue, which had declined since the formation of Macedonia, recently picked up again as Macedonia began a campaign to join the EU and NATO. Two days after the rally, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev indicated his country was willing to compromise, suggesting options like adding a "geographical qualifier," rebranding as something like "Upper Macedonia" or "New Macedonia."

So far, no one seems very happy, and they're still working to find a solution as the United Nations ramps up the pressure. In the meantime, VICE News traveled to the protests to find out why the proposed compromise remains unpopular — and why some Greeks want Macedonia to rebrand completely.

This segment originally aired Feb. 5, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

This article originally appeared on VICE News US.

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