No Start Date for EU Accession Talks with Macedonia June 18, 2010Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
Tags: EU, Macedonia
In light of the slow pace of the Athens-Skopje name talks it is expected that the EU will not extend a start date for Macedonia’s accession talks when European leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday, a local analyst told Balkan Insight.
“This means that Macedonia is now definitely at the very bottom of the EU agenda,” said Stevo Pendarovski, the former advisor to ex-Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski.
Pendarovski told Balkan Insight that despite various statements “everyone who is close to the name negotiations knows that Macedonia and Greece have never been further from compromise than in the past six months”.
During that time the UN mediator Matthew Nimetz held only one round of Athens-Skopje negotiations that happened in January.
Following Monday’s meeting in Luxembourg in preparation for the European Council summit on June 17, EU foreign ministers did not mention Macedonia in their conclusions on the Western Balkans. This made it quite clear that the country would not be given a start date at the summit in Brussels.
Instead, the EU ministers agreed to encourage all Western Balkan countries in their efforts to meet membership criteria. The foreign ministers also urged all parties to address outstanding issues with neighbouring countries.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Monday in Luxembourg that Macedonia was put briefly on the table for discussion during the foreign ministers’ meeting.
Without revealing further details she praised the ongoing UN led Athens-Skopje name negotiations, hinting that once there is a breakthrough, the EU will be able to move forward on the issue of extending a start date for Macedonia’s accession talks. She expressed hope that this would happen soon.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki yesterday expressed regret that the bilateral dispute had hampered his country’s hopes of being granted a start date, adding that this will have a serious negative impact.
“That kind of decision won’t motivate us and will have a negative effect on the enlargement process as well as on the EU’s credibility in Macedonia. However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t invest or work more, but it would have been much different if we had been rewarded for our efforts,” Milososki said.
Athens and Skopje have been locked in a dispute over the use of the name Macedonia for 18 years. Athens insists that Skopje’s official name, Republic of Macedonia, implies territorial claims against its own northern province, also called Macedonia.
In December last year Athens blocked Skopje from getting the desired start date despite a positive recommendation from the European Commission. Greece is also blocking Macedonia’s NATO accession.