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Ahead of the EU Council of Ministers discussion on Macedonia’s blocked EU bid, Athens sends a message dampening Skopje’s hopes of opening EU accession talks prior to the resolution of the ‘name’ dispute.
The Greek Foreign Ministry said that the condition for lifting its blockade to Macedonia’s EU membership remains the same - first the ‘name’ issue has to be resolved and then the talks can start.
“Greece’s stance remains firm and consistent,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Gregory Delavekouras, said.
The EU General Affairs and Foreign Affairs Councils meet on Monday and Tuesday in Brussels.
It is expected that Macedonia’s blocked bid would be discussed on Tuesday.
Regarding the speculations in the Greek newspaper 'Ta Nea' that Greece is ready to consent to the opening of Macedonia’s accession negotiations without a prior resolution of the name issue, Delavekouras said that “we make it clear that this does not correspond to the reality of the situation”.
Last week ‘Ta Nea’ wrote that Greece was allegedly ready to lift its blockade if the EU ties Macedonia to a strict time framework for the settlement of the name issue.
Since 2009, Macedonia have been obtaining the recommendation for the start of the EU membership talks as part of generally positive European Commission progress reports.
However, Macedonia still have not been offered the start date for talks due to the Greek blockade, related to the dispute over Macedonia’s name.
Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.
This year the EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule has floated the idea that the country be given the start date without the prior deal on the name issue, accompanied with an obligation and a time frame for solving the name dispute in the early stage of the talks.
Media Speculate on UN Name Proposal
The Macedonian weekly ‘Gragjanski’ last week speculated that the latest suggestion coming from the UN mediator Matthew Nimetz was for the country to be called 'Northern Republic of Macedonia’.
He allegedly also envisaged that the Macedonian language be named ‘the official language of the Northern Republic of Macedonia’ and the nationality be described as ‘of the Northern Republic of Macedonia’.
While Nimetz’s office and Macedonia remained silent, Greece rebuffed these alegations stating that “Greece received no such ideas”.
“The main question now is whether there is enough confidence between Athens and Skopje for them to commit to such time framework,” one high ranking source from the Macedonian Foreign Ministry told Balkan Insight under condition of anonymity.
He says that one option being considered is that the EU sets one-year time frame for both countries to resolve their bilateral issue, conditioning Macedonian talks with it.
Another option, according to the source, is that the Council grants screening of only two of over 30 chapters that Macedonia needs to finish before being invited to join.
“Macedonia has been waiting for too long to move forward and this may come as a conciliatory prize,” the source said.
The Macedonian government on Sunday restrained from commenting, saying it might harm the process in Brussels.
In mid-November, the UN mediator in the dispute, Matthew Nimets, has put forward several suggestions for a compromise name for Macedonia during the talks in New York. However, his proposals have not been made public and both sides have remained silent about it.
The European Council is expected to deliver its official conclusions from the meetings on Thursday and Friday.
The UN mediator in the ‘name’ dispute has put forward several suggestions for a compromise name for Macedonia in talks in New York - but his ideas have not been made public.
The Hague Tribunal has been successful in bringing wartime commanders to justice but hasn’t met expectations on reconciliation, chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz told BIRN.