Saturday

16th Dec 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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 ushers Macedonia to come closer

The European commission has said it would restore full-throated support for Macedonia to start accession talks if it kept up reform.

Interview

EU outshines Russia in Western Balkans

Russia cannot compete with the EU for attractiveness in the Western Balkans, but can play an 'obstructive' role, Albania's foreign minister said.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states