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Macedonia Rejects Suggested Name Change, Says Sounds Like 'Klingon'

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov
Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov

Macedonia on July 18 rejected suggestions it could end a dispute with Greece over its name by adopting an acronym instead, saying it sounded like the "Klingon" language from the Star Trek series.

Greece has long insisted that the name Macedonia should only be used for its own northern province, and it has vetoed Skopje's attempts to join NATO over the dispute.

As a result, Athens, Brussels, and the United Nations all refer to the Balkan country as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

"When you say FYROM, that has as much reference to my country as 'Klingon' from the Star Trek TV series," Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said at a news conference with European Union officials in Brussels.

The Klingons are a fictional human-like species with bumpy heads who run their own extraterrestrial empire in the U.S. science fiction TV series and movies.

Their language has become a fan cult, spawning an opera and Klingon translations of the Bible and Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Klingons in a Star Trek film
Klingons in a Star Trek film

While rejecting Greece's suggested name change, Dimitrov hinted that another compromise was possible.

"We cannot resolve if one of the two parties will be quote unquote 'defeated,'" he said. "We have to find a way where both countries will go forward with straight heads. I think that's possible.... We need to do the right steps carefully and at the right time."

Macedonia's new prime minister, Zoran Zaev, suggested last month in Brussels that his country could join NATO and the EU under a provisional name in a bid to end the row.

"With the new government in place ready to actively engage in implementation of overdue reforms, there is a real opportunity to move the country forward on its European Union integration path," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at the news conference.

"Optimism is in the air, I think also for things that have been difficult in the past and that could be less difficult in the future, hopefully," she said.

The name issue came to the fore after Macedonia gained independence in the 1990s following the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Greece claims a historical right to the name because the heart of Alexander the Great's ancient kingdom lies in its northern province of Macedonia.

With reporting by AFP and Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels
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