North Macedonia plays the first match in its history at the Euro, this Sunday against Austria. In a tense context with Greece, which accuses it of displaying a logo with the term “Macedonia” without the precision “North”. A situation which resurfaces a long conflict between the two neighboring countries.
Greece did not qualify for the Euro. But that does not prevent the winner of the 2004 edition from following the competition closely. On the ground but also outside. By carefully observing North Macedonia, with which it had been in conflict for almost thirty years, until the Prespa agreement (named after a border lake between the two countries) concluded in 2018. In a stormy context between Athens and Skopje.
In question? The name “Macedonia”, which Greece wishes to reserve for one of its regions, located in the north of the country. And that the former Yugoslav Republic used after declaring its independence in 1991. To end half a century of discord, the small Balkan country has therefore finally agreed to call itself “North Macedonia”. By committing to expand the name “Macedonia” in its official names and throughout its territory. A condition if ne qua non for the lifting of the veto of Greece for its membership in NATO and its rapprochement with the European Union.
The logo of the Federation of North Macedonia at the center of the tensions
But three years later, the Macedonian Football Federation still has not added the term “North” to its name. And its logo, with the acronym “MKD”, appears on the jersey of Goran Pandev’s partners, who are playing their first Euro match against Austria this Sunday. What seriously annoy Greece, which complained officially. Nikos Dendias, the Greek Foreign Minister, wrote to Bujar Osmani, his North Macedonian counterpart, asking him to change the name of the federation in order to respect the Prespa agreement. Lefteris Avgenakis, the Greek Sports Minister, also sent a letter to Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA president, denouncing the situation.
The Hellenic Federation issued a statement denouncing the behavior of North Macedonia in this affair: “It is sad, even scandalous, that problems settled by international conventions are popping up out of nowhere, on the occasion of the start of the Euro (…) The Olympic Committee and all international sports confederations, including those of football, have recognized North Macedonia as one of their members. Any arbitrary self-designation takes place outside the applicable regulatory framework “.