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More than a Macedonian name-game July 29, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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There is more at stake for Macedonia than just its name.

Macedonia has been a candidate for membership of the European Union since December 2005, but has been prevented by Greece from starting accession talks. Greece says that the country’s name implies a territorial claim on its own province of Macedonia.

“We really feel frustrated that we are blocked for irrelevant reasons,” Antonio Milošoski, Macedonia’s foreign minister, told European Voice. “If Greece had not imposed its bilateral dispute on Macedonia, today the country would be on its way to becoming a member together with Croatia,” he said. “Greece knows that the facts and justice are on our side in this dispute over a name.”

Domestic challenges

Milošoski did acknowledge, however, that his country also faced considerable domestic obstacles on its way into the EU. He singled out the state of the judiciary and environmental matters. More broadly, “a multi-ethnic society, political stability and cohesion will continue being a challenge in the future”. Macedonia came to the brink of civil war in 2000-01 when its ethnic Albanian minority took up arms following the war in next-door Kosovo.

All of these challenges would benefit, Milošoski suggested, from the opening of membership talks. “Once you have opened the accession talks, you can see the carrot,” he said. “Just imagining the carrot is not easy.”

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