More than 1000 students staged protests in Thessaloniki on Thursday, November 29, to denounce the Greek government's support for Macedonia's proposed name change. A simultaneous counterprotest of roughly 400 students also gathered in Athens. While the protest in Thessaloniki initially took place without incident, some participants reportedly threw stones at police forces who, in turn, fired tear gas and arrested several protesters. Further protests and counterprotests over the name change issue are possible in the coming days and weeks.
Students in northern Greece have conducted related demonstrations and have blocked numerous high schools in recent days. Some observers and local authorities fear a rising influence of nationalism in schools. Relations between Greece and Macedonia have improved in recent months. On June 20, the Macedonian parliament ratified the Prespa Agreement with Greece, which stipulates that Macedonia will formally change its name to Republic of North Macedonia from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Greek Parliament will also vote on the name-change deal, and the ruling Syriza government has indicated it has enough votes to approve the measure.
The change is intended to end a 27-year-long dispute with Greece over the name and clear the way for Macedonia's entry to the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The name change has been controversial in both Greece and Macedonia, spurring demonstrations in both countries.
Individuals located in Greece are advised to monitor developments to the situation and avoid all protests as a precaution.
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