21st Feb 2019

Name issue should not hinder Macedonia's EU bid, MEPs say

  • Macedonia has been an EU candidate since 2005, but has not started accession talks yet (Photo: Wikipedia/Novica Nakov)

MEPs on Wednesday (23 April) called on both Macedonia and Greece to solve a 17-year-old row over the Balkan country's name suggesting that the dispute should no longer be a hindrance to Skopje's attempts to join international organisations, such as the EU.

In a report on the country's progress towards the EU in 2007, the deputies called "on both sides to seize the opportunity to immediately resume negotiations in light of the important progress made recently [on the name issue] and in the knowledge that, with the compromise solution within reach, the issue does not continue to represent an obstacle to the Former Republic of Macedonia's membership of international organisations."

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Athens has been refusing to recognise its neighbour's constitutional name - Republic of Macedonia - since the country declared independence in 1991, considering that it implies territorial claims on a northern Greek province also called Macedonia.

Following the ongoing stalemate, Greece earlier this month blocked a NATO invitation to Skopje. It has also indicated that it wants the "name issue" to be resolved before Macedonia is allowed closer to the EU.

The name dispute featured in a debate on the report on 10 April, when the document was first planned to be adopted. But the voting was postponed over the controversy.

Initially, the text read that the issue "should in no circumstances become an obstacle" to Macedonia's membership of international organisations.

But this language was watered down following an amendment tabled by the parliament's biggest groups – Christian Democrats, Socialists and Liberals – last week. The report now underlines that the name dispute should not "continue to represent an obstacle" to Macedonia's bid to join international organisations.

Speaking before the vote on his report, Dutch MEP Erik Meijer said he expected that an agreement on Macedonia's name would be found this year.

EU encouraged to open accession talks with Skopje

In the document, MEPs also call on the EU to open accession talks with Macedonia before the end of this year, provided that it meets criteria set by the commission last month.

The European Parliament "refers to the list of eight benchmarks that the European Commission has drawn up (…) and hopes that the attainment of these by the country will lead to opening of the accession negotiations before the end of 2008," the report reads.

In addition, MEPs ask the EU member states "to evaluate at the next summit [in June] the progress made so far, and if possible to decide on a date for the start of the accession negotiations."

The deputies also expressed hope that Macedonia's own preparations for opening EU talks will not be delayed due to the dissolution of the country's parliament on 11 April and the forthcoming early elections.

Macedonia has been an EU candidate country since December 2005.

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