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Greece is unlikely to allow the opening of EU accession talks with Macedonia before a solution is agreed to the 'name' dispute, experts say in responding to the Enlargement Commissioner's latest remarks.
Macedonian experts said they doubted Brussels will open accession talks with Macedonia before a solution to the "name" dispute with Greece is reached.
They spoke after Macedonia on Wednesday obtained its fourth recommendation for a start to EU membership talks as part of a generally positive European Commission progress report.
Referring to the report, Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said that a “decision of the European Council to open accession negotiations would help create the conditions for finding a solution for the 'name' dispute with Greece”.
Reacting to his statement, Macedonian experts said they doubted such a plan could succeed.
“It looks logical, and it is in the domain of an EU enlargement commissioner to insist on such scenario,” former Foreign Minister Denko Maleski told Balkan Insight.
But “these are his wishes and the hard reality of the problem will become apparent during the December meeting of the EU Council, when Macedonia will again be left in the hands of Greece, which shows no signs of backing down.”
Maleski said that bilateral relations between Macedonia and Greece were so cool that "I do not think that this initiative will be given a chance”.
Fule said that if Greece allowed the talks to start, “the Commission is ready to present a negotiating framework, which takes the need to solve the name issue into account at an early stage of the accession process."
But former Macedonian presidential candidate Nano Ruzin said that this year’s report only “opens the opportunity for a start of the talks”.
“The Macedonian government will again be faced with the challenge of solving the name dispute” in any case, he added, as “resuming the talks is conditioned on a name solution in one of the first chapters of the talks”.
Macedonia gained EU candidate status back in 2005. For four years in a row since 2009 the Commission has recommended a start to accession talks.
But Europe has not offered an actual start date for the talks owing 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.
Both countries are engaged in long-standing talks in the UN to resolve the issue but these have not led to a breakthrough.
Another former Foreign Minister, Antonio Milososki expects increased pressure from EU countries on Greece in December to allow start of talks.
But he too is sceptical regarding the outcome of such pressure.
“Their ability to persuade Greece will be crucial, because Greece, as a member state has been the sole obstacle for a start to talks,” Milososki noted.
Greece recently sent a draft memorandum of understanding to Macedonia, insisting that if it signed, it would help a solution to the name dispute. Macedonia has said it will carefully look at its content.
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