Authorities in Skopje erected a huge bronze statue of Alexander the Great in the city centre, a move certain to aggravate a long running dispute with Athens over the official name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that has barred the tiny Balkan country from joining the EU and NATO.
The 11-metre-high statue, which weighs around 40 tons, was raised onto a 10-metre-high pedestal in the heart of Skopje, to cheering crowds. Last Monday commenting on news about preparations to raise the statue of the ancient Greek warrior in Skopje, Foreign Minister of Greece Mr Stavros Lambrinidis suggested that authorities in FYROM should “concentrate on building bridges rather than erecting walls and statues”. Lambrinidis, while visiting Luxembourg for a summit of peers from the EU and Balkans, told his FYROM counterpart, Antonio Milososki that “instead of trying to rewrite history we should try to write the future”.
The European Union’s Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, also reacted to the plans late on Monday, warning FYROM that taking action considered by Greece as “provocative” could harm its ambitions to join the bloc. Speaking on A1 television channel in Skopje, the Czech commissioner condemned the decision to erect the giant monument depicting Greece’s ancient hero – a move Athens has described as a “usurpation” of its history.
“Seriously, if you have a neighbour… and there is an issue between the two of you, whatever the nature of that issue is, if you are trying sincerely to solve it, I guess you would avoid doing anything that your neighbour might call a provocation,” Fule said. “This is simple logic.” Greece objects to FYROM using the word ‘Macedonia’ in its name without a geographical qualifier – the country borders with Greece’s northern province of Macedonia – and has blocked Skopje’s accession to NATO and the EU until the rows are resolved.