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News 24 Jun 15

Greek Minister on Trust-Building Mission to Macedonia

The Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, is visiting Macedonia on Wednesday on a mission to kickstart ties between the two neighbours, frozen as a result of the ongoing 'name' dispute.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias | Photo by: Greek Foreign Ministry

The Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, is visiting Macedonia on Wednesday on a mission to rekindle ties between the estranged neighbours.

Strengthening economic cooperation and cultural ties, opening a new border crossing in the Lake Prespa region as well as improving transport links between the towns of Bitola and Florina are some of the measures to be discussed on Kotzias’s visit.

Kotzias will meet top Macedonian leaders including President Gjorge Ivanov, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki.

A foreign diplomatic source told BIRN last week under condition of anonymity that the boost to bilateral cooperation could at least indirectly help to solve the years-long dispute over Macedonia's name - to which Athens objects.

“The two ministers [Kotzias and Macedonia’s Nikola Popovski] met several times and agreed to work on proposed-measures for building trust. Ideas from both sides should help us better understand each other in future over the 'name,'” the source said.

Greece blocked Macedonia's accession to NATO in 2008 and is currently blocking Macedonia's attempts to join the EU in connection with the dispute over Macedonia's name.

Greece claims that use of the word Macedonia implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.

Athens has been blocking Macedonia's EU inetrgation despite the fact that it obtained EU candidate status in 2005 and although European Commission reports have recommended a start to Macedonian membership talks since 2009.

Largely owing to the "name" dispute, relations between Athens and Skopje remain logjammed and the two sides have not signed a single bilateral treaty since 2007.

The Greek minister's visit to Skopje forms part of a regional trip, which includes Belgrade and Podgorica.

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