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News 31 Jul 13

Macedonia Urges Greece to Stop Abuse of Tourists

Skopje is sending a protest note to Athens, urging its neighbour to stop nationalists targeting Macedonian tourists in Greece with verbal abuse and vandalism.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The Macedonian foreign ministry has demanded an “immediate stop to the nationalistic rhetoric” directed towards Macedonians spending their summer vacations in Greece.

The incidents culminated last week when groups of Greek ultra-nationalists, reportedly members of the Golden Dawn movement, gathered at the two busiest border crossings, Bogorodica and Medzitlija.

They chanted “Macedonia is Greek” and handed out pamphlets with a similar message to Macedonians entering Greece.

In the protest note, Macedonia also expressed “worry” that attacks on Macedonian vehicles in Greece have also continued.

Macedonian police recently said that they received around 30 reports of such crimes from Macedonian tourists who had been staying in Greece.

The tourists mainly complained that their car numbers plates with the identifying letters ‘MK’ had been stolen or damaged. In a few of the cases, the cars were spraypainted with offensive slogans or damaged in other ways.

Such incidents “are not in the spirit of good neighbourliness”, Macedonia wrote to Greece, adding that this would not help the two countries to create a climate conducive to overcoming their bilateral differences.

So far Athens has been silent about the allegations.

Relations between Macedonia and Greece have been strained for two decades by the row over Macedonia's name. Greece insists that use of the name ‘Macedonia’ implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name.

Citing the unresolved issue, Greece has been blocking Macedonia’s progress towards both EU and NATO membership. UN-brokered talks to overcome the dispute have so far failed to yield a solution.

Despite occasional complaints about nationalistically motivated incidents from both sides, Greece has remained one of the top summer destinations for Macedonians.

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