Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos’ visit to Thessaloniki’s Music Hall to attend the International Holocaust Remembrance Day concert on Sunday was marred by protest action.
About 300 protestors gathered to protest the ratification of the Prespes Agreement by Greek Parliament. The protestors are angered that President Pavlopoulos did not weigh in on the agreement will allow FYROM to be known as the Republic of Northern Macedonia. They are angry that he did not take a firm stand, even though the Greek Constitution does not give the ceremonial role much leeway for intervention.
Tensions are high among the general population, shown by media polls to be mostly against the ratification of the agreement that puts an end to a 28-year name dispute. Apart from the name change, the Greek government would now lift its veto and allow Skopje to gain NATO membership.
Residents in the northern Greek province of Macedonia are particularly concerned with the ratification of the agreement due to the perception that the neighbouring country also harbours territorial land claims and has already claimed symbols of ancient Greek heritage. Previous FYROM governments built giant statues to honour Alexander the Great and his father Philip, and commissioned books that blotted out the Greek identity of ancient Macedonia.
With the new agreement, plaques will be added to the statues to explain their Greek identity.
Protestors in Thessaloniki were sprayed with tear gas as they tried to push through police lines.
More protestors arrived later. They wore masks and erected a barricade using trash, rubbish bins and a discarded Christmas tree.