Friday

21st Sep 2018

EU sees 'momentum' on Macedonia name dispute

  • Hahn (r) with Zaev in Brussels on Monday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

There was “new momentum” for solving the name dispute that has helped to keep Macedonia out of the EU and Nato, the EU’s enlargement chief has said.

Johannes Hahn said on Monday (12 June) in Brussels that the formation of a new government in Skopje, ending a two-year long political crisis there, could lead to a breakthrough on Macedonia's name dispute with Greece.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Stoltenberg (l) urged Zaev to build "strong democratic institutions" (Photo: nato.int)

“I think there’s new momentum and I think we can use this situation and make progress”, he said.

Zoran Zaev, the new Macedonian leader, who hails from the centre-left SDSM party, said alongside Hahn that his foreign minister would go to Athens on Wednesday and that a solution appeared “feasible”.

Zaev said after meeting Nato head Jens Stoltenberg later the same day that “all possible options” were being considered, including to join Nato under a provisional name and to negotiate a lasting solution with Greece later on.

Macedonia split from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and became a UN member in 1993 under the provisional name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

It wanted to join the EU and Nato under the name the Republic of Macedonia, but Greece has blocked its accession talks for over a decade on grounds that it implied a territorial claim to the Greek region of Macedonia.

Macedonia’s former leader, Nikola Gruevski, had antagonised Greece via nationalist pomp, but Zaev has vowed to end that.

Lessons learned

Hahn also said on Monday that the EU’s handling of the name dispute had contributed to destabilising Macedonia.

“The European Union should have learned their lesson and I hope we’ll find a solution at last to start [accession] negotiations”, he said.

He said the EU’s refusal to open accession talks with Macedonia due to the Greek veto “was clearly not helpful for stabilising the country”.

“Ten years ago, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was the best pupil in the class [in terms of pro-EU reforms] and this is not the case today,” he said.

The Macedonia crisis erupted after Zaev leaked wire-taps indicating that Gruevski and his party were guilty of mass-scale corruption and election rigging.

It culminated in violent protests in which a pro-Gruevski mob stormed parliament in April and beat up Zaev, who still bore a scar from the attack on his forehead on Monday.

Hahn urged Zaev to press ahead with reforms on the judiciary, rule of law, and public administration.

He said that if Macedonia made progress by autumn, the Commission could once again recommend that the EU opened accession talks.

He added that it was “not unrealistic” that Macedonia, or some other Wester Balkan states, could join the EU before 2024.

Foreign interference

Nato’s Stoltenberg said he was “shocked” by the violence in Skopje in April.

He said Montenegro’s accession to Nato last week showed that Nato's “door was still open”, but also urged Zaev to strengthen rule of law and to stamp out corruption.

Speaking after Russia tried to enflame the political crisis in Macedonia and amid allegations that it tried to stage a coup in Montenegro, Stoltenberg said “strong democratic institutions" were "the best way to build resilience against foreign interference”.

Mob storms Macedonian parliament

A nationalist mob violently stormed parliament in Macedonia on Thursday, amid EU concern on police conduct during the attack.

EU to Macedonia: 'Stop playing with fire'

The EU has once again urged Macedonia to let Albanian parties join a new government and to stop “playing with fire” on ethnic hate speech.

Marital row turns into dispute between Skopje and Sofia

A marital dispute between a Macedonian woman, holding Bulgarian citizenship, and her ex-husband is evolving into an international issue. The contestants: Macedonia, former Yugoslav republic turned aspiring EU-member, and member-of-the-club Bulgaria.

Opinion

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us