Macedonians protest name change demanded by neighbouring Greece

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Macedonians protest name change demanded by neighbouring Greece

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Thousands of Macedonians have braved the snow and the cold in Skpoje to protest against their government's proposals to change their country's name.

The government's problem - neighbouring Greece will veto the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) from joining th EU and NATO until it does.

"This is who we are, no one should change us. We are Macedonians up until now, with traditions through centuries," said one woman.

"I want to remain in the Republic of Macedonia, we are Macedonians and we will remain Macedonians," one man said.

The government has proposed four new names and hopes that one of them will end the decade-long dispute.

Greece objects to the name Macedonia, believing it could imply a territorial claim over one of their regions, which is called Macedonia.

The small ex-Yugoslav republic and its southern neighbour Greece have agreed to step up negotiations this year to resolve the dispute.

FYROM hopes the issue can be resolved in time for an EU meeting in June and a NATO summit in July, and is proposing a geographical 'qualifier' to ensure there is clear differentiation in the two names.

Greece's demand for an amendment of references to the 'Republic of Macedonia' in the national constitution could prove the toughest issue unless some room for manoeuvre can be found.

If an agreement between the two countries can finally be found, FROM will then hold a referendum to ask its population of around two million to back the change.