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EP Rapporteur Warns Macedonia on Name Row May 31, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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The European Parliament building, Strasbourg, France. Photo by Davor Konjikusic

The European Parliament building, Strasbourg, France. Photo by Davor Konjikusic

Without a solution to the name dispute with Greece, the situation is potentially dismal for Macedonia at the forthcoming June summit of EU leaders, Zoran Thaler, Slovenian member of the European Parliament and Special Rapporteur for Macedonia, told press in Skopje.

Thaler warned that the time for a name settlement is running out and that without the solution in hand Skopje has only a slim chance of getting the desired start date for its EU accession talks at the meeting of EU leaders. The move is currently being blocked by Greece.

“If there is progress, Macedonia’s negotiations will be launched, including concrete tasks for the country, which would be good. On the contrary, and unfortunately this is currently the more realistic option, Macedonia could gradually be taken off the agenda. This means you will no longer be in the focus of the EC’s attention,” Thaler said on Thursday.

Thaler urged Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to step up and “solve the rubicon without fear of how this will affect his personal ratings, the popularity of his party or that of the government.

The MEP warned that there is a growing feeling in Brussels that Skopje is not entirely sincere when it says it wants to join the EU.  He says that Brussels is becoming suspicious of the true intentions of the government led by Gruevski.

Thaler suggested a possible scenario to resolve the name problem, but stressed that it was only his personal idea.

He argued that a professional high profile negotiator could be hired to mediate between Athens and Skopje and resolve the issue in a period of 45 to 60 days. In order to succeed he should have the full endorsement of the UN head Ban Ki-moon and key political figures from the EU and US.

“Then I would like to see who would dare to sabotage his mandate,” said Thaler.

Thaler also noted that the country should double its effort to reform its legislation to match European standards. Unlike last year’s reforms progress, which was awarded with a recommendation from the European Commission to open the EU accession talks with Skopje, Thaler noted a setback in the pace of reforms this year.

Despite the positive EC report last autumn, Skopje was blocked by Athens from getting the desired start date. Athens argues that its smaller neighbour should not be allowed to join NATO and the EU before changing its official name, Republic of Macedonia.

Greece says that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claim’s against its own northern province, which is also called Macedonia. The ongoing UN led negotiations, which have been held on and off for years, have so far been unsuccessful.

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