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EU urged to set date for Macedonia accession talks January 31, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Macedonia.
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The European Parliament urges the EU to set a date within weeks to begin accession negotiations with Macedonia.

photo“I see this as a positive development for Macedonia,” Rapporteur on Macedonia Zoran Thaler said at a press conference after the vote. [Getty Images]

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (EP) overwhelmingly adopted a draft resolution Wednesday (January 27th) urging leaders of the EU to set a date for membership talks with Macedonia during a March summit.

In the resolution, the EP “calls on the Council to confirm the Commission’s recommendation without further delay at the summit in March 2010 and expects the negotiations to begin in the near future”.

The document — drawn up by Zoran Thaler, a Slovenian member of the EP and its rapporteur on Macedonia — was approved in a 56-5 vote following debate Tuesday on more than 80 amendments.

The final draft gave a positive overall assessment of the efforts Macedonia made in 2009 towards meeting EU entry requirements. If Macedonia is to stay on track for membership, it said, the government in Skopje must do a better job fighting corruption, while improving the rights of women and people of all ethnic backgrounds, not just those that are officially recognised.

Published on the EP website, the document called on Macedonia to take the necessary measures to discourage “hate speech” in regard to neighbouring states whether in the media or school textbooks.

Speaking after Wednesday’s vote, Thaler said he hoped the EU would see the EP’s strong backing for Macedonia’s bid as an “important political signal”. He called it a move towards “peace and stability in the Western Balkans”.

The EC recommended last October that the EU open accession talks with Skopje, noting that Macedonia “sufficiently fulfills the political criteria” for membership in the 27-nation bloc.

The EU postponed those talks last month after Greece opposed it because of Athens lingering, two decade-old name dispute with Macedonia. The bloc promised to revisit the issue during Spain’s six-month term at the helm of the Union, which ends June 30th.

Welcoming the “new, more positive climate” between Athens and Skopje, the EP ministers urged both governments to “redouble their efforts” towards finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name dispute.

The EP stressed that the EU must be ready to engage more actively in the UN-led negotiations on the name issue between the two countries.

At the same time, the ministers hailed a Greek initiative — backed by Austria — setting 2014 as a target date for EU accession of all Western Balkan nations, calling membership a “noble goal”.

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