Greece has formally asked North Macedonia to modify its team’s Euro 2020 shirts, claiming that the present version runs counter to a historic treaty between the Balkan neighbours.
The dispute broke out over the initials FFM (Football Federation of Macedonia), which Greece says are a throwback to the Balkan country’s name before a 2018 treaty solved a longstanding diplomatic row between the Balkan neighbours.
Over the weekend, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias complained in a letter to his North Macedonia counterpart Bujar Osmani that the shirt initials “cannot be accepted” by Greece, state agency ANA said.
Dendias asked for the initials to be modified “to maintain a positive dynamic” in relations with Athens.
But Osmani argued that the 2018 treaty known as the Prespes Agreement covers state-funded institutions, which the FFM is not.
“As long as FFM does not receive state money, it does not have an obligation to adapt its name,” Osmani said.
Until recently, the country competed under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) — a workaround to avoid ire from Greece, who never accepted the name “Macedonia” because it has a province bearing the same name.
The Prespes Agreement — furiously criticised by right-wing opposition parties in both countries — saw Skopje add “North” to its official name, ending a row dating to 1991 and opening a path towards joining the European Union.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party, which strongly opposed the agreement, has delayed bringing a number of pending bilateral agreements to a vote in the country’s parliament.