Thursday

29th Jun 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

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.

EU urges Turkey to investigate election fraud

The EU called for a transparent investigation into alleged irregularities during the referendum in Turkey, which gave sweeping powers to president Erdogan. It added that reinstating the death penalty would end the country's EU bid.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament adopts mandate for 2018 budget talks
  2. EU commission launches pan-EU pension plan
  3. EU eases police access to databases
  4. Schulz calls for ban of Erdogan rally
  5. Trump to celebrate Bastille Day with Macron in Paris
  6. EU extended Russia sanctions until 2018
  7. Netherlands partially liable for Srebrenica massacre, court rules
  8. Cyprus reunification talks resume in Switzerland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  2. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  3. EU2017EEGet the Latest News from the 2017 Estonian EU Council Presidency @EU2017EE
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Against Critical Voices
  5. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  6. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  8. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  9. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  10. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  11. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  12. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances