Greece Overreacts to Incident, Macedonia

resizer21Greece’s warning against traveling to Macedonia is an over reaction to an isolated incident, Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, in a response to Athens’s decision to caution those traveling to their northern neighbour.

The Greek Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued what effectively amounted to a travel warning to its citizens after tourist buses carrying Greeks were spray painted with graffiti. Macedonia’s foreign ministry said the incident was the result of “the negative climate that has been created with regard to our country during the past year”. 

“We believe that such Greek reaction is utterly inappropriate and an overemphasis, and we appeal that this isolated incident, as well as the dozen similar incidents that occurred in Greece over the past year in which Macedonians were the target, are not abused in the context of daily politics,” reads the statement from the Macedonian Foriegn Ministry.

The two neighboring countries are locked in an 18-year dispute over Macedonia’s name. Tensions reached a new high last April when Athens blocked Skopje’s entry into NATO arguing that the name Macedonia implies territorial claims over its own northern province called the same. Since then there have been dozens of similar small scale incidents on both sides of the border.

The three buses carrying Greek tourists were parked in downtown Ohrid, Macedonia’s leading tourist centre, when they were spray-painted with slogans such as “United Macedonia”, “Alexander the Great” and some obscenities. The tourists who said they were very upset about the incident were escorted back to Greece under police protection.

Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski condemned the latest incident.

Following the latest incident, the Macedonian ministry proposed that a mixed Macedonia-Greece committee is established, comprised of competent security and transport bodies from both countries, which would prevent and resolve such incidents in the future.

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