SKOPJE – Macedonian officials started on Wednesday removing street signs referring to a conquering hero who transformed the world 23 centuries ago in a bid to ease long-simmering tensions with neighboring Greece over the country’s name.
The government in Skopje decided to rename the “Alexander of Macedonia” highway to “Friendship” highway, while the airport dropped the warrior king’s name in favor of “Skopje International Airport,” an official said.
“The new signs will be put up after they pass the language commissions and as soon as we produce them,” the director of Macedonia’s public roads company, Gajur Kadriu, told EFE.
He said taking down the remaining 25 signs would continue over the coming days and the cost of the change amounted to some 80,000 euros ($98,642).
The changes came after a meeting between the prime ministers of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, and Greece, Alexis Tsipras, last month in a bid to warm relations between the nations ahead of any negotiations on Macedonia’s name.
The highway was named after Alexander in 2008, while the airport had borne his name since 2006.
Greece sees the word “Macedonia” as a term that belongs exclusively to the northern Greek region of the same name.
Since the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia declared its independence in 1991, Greece has been opposed to its official name.
Alexander III of a kingdom then known as Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great, went on an unparalleled conquering spree that enabled him to found more than 70 cities, creating in the process an empire that spanned across three continents and covered around two million square miles.