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Macedonia reassures EU of its will to reform and solve name dispute August 16, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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Macedonia officials on Tuesday (27 July) in Brussels promised the EU that Skopje will speed up stalled reforms and unblock the political dialogue in the country.

During the seventh Stabilisation and Association Council, the main annual framework for political dialogue between the two sides, Macedonia reassured the EU of its genuine will to resolve the name dispute with Greece.

EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele listed five more problematic areas in Macedonia (Photo: Valentina Pop)

In November, Macedonia received the green light to start membership talks with the EU based on the implementation of nine reforms, conditions posed by the EU Commission last summer. But the opening of the negotiations was stopped by the ongoing name dispute with Greece.

Athens fears the name “Republic of Macedonia” may imply territorial claims over the Greek province Macedonia and wants the country to change its name by adding a geographical determinant that would make a difference between the Greek province and the state. Athens has blocked its neighbour’s applications for membership in Nato and the EU over the issue.

The two countries have been unable to reach an agreement since 1995 when they started bilateral talks under UN mediation. Lately, talks between Athens and Skopje have intensified, raising hopes the dispute may come to an end.

In addition to the name problem, there was concern at the beginning of year that reforms may slow down following the EU commission’s positive assessment in 2009 allowing Macedonia to start membership talks.

EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele on Tuesday said the meeting took place at an important time and that he was “looking for answers on whether the reform pace has slowed down or not.” Macedonia managed to reassure its EU partners that there is a “regained momentum in the reforms”, he added.

He expressed hope that the political dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition will resume. During the last two weeks, the deputies in Skopje failed to find an agreement on the parliament’s Rule Book, which has been causing problems for the functioning of the legislative body for a long time.

In June, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski promised Mr Fuele to do his best to see through agreement on the rules and to start a genuine political dialogue, something which is still lacking in the country.

Mr Fuele listed five more problematic areas including the politicised public administration, the judiciary’s lack of independence, the insufficient fight against the corruption, human rights issues concerning vulnerable groups like the Roma and the problematic business environment where poor legislative security prevents foreign investment.

The Belgian Presidency, represented by foreign minister Steven Vanackere, expressed hope that the name issue with Greece will be resolved before the end of 2010. This would allow Belgium to put the opening of membership talks with Macedonia on the EU agenda.

Mr Vanackere stressed that his optimism stems from the fact that both Greece and Macedonia are showing political will to end the name dispute.

“This is in the interest of everybody. When the apple is ripe it falls from the tree”, he said, adding that Belgium has a modest role in the dispute where the solution has to come from those who are involved in it.

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