Analysis 12 Jan 18

Macedonia 2018: All Eyes Focus on ‘Name’ Agreement

After a year of turbulence, there are hopes of breakthrough this year in Macedonia’s stalled NATO and EU accession bids, provided a compromise is finally reached on the long-standing ‘name’ dispute.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
 
 Macedonian Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev [left] and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker [right]. Photo: MIA

Still fresh out of a crippling political crisis, only resolved in mid-2017, Macedonia has little time for a breathing space if it wishes to seize the favourable international momentum for a breakthrough in its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

To achieve that, Macedonia’s ambitious new government will first need to turn an old political adversary, neighbouring Greece, into a friend that no longer blocks its accession into NATO and the EU over the unresolved dispute over its name.

This is easier said than done. The recent build-up of optimism in Athens and Skopje, and the encouragement coming from Washington and Brussels, have yet to translate into a concrete UN-sponsored deal.

Domestically, the Social Democrat-led government will be hard at work fulfilling the long overdue set of EU-sought reforms that aim to democratize Macedonia’s key institutions in areas like the judiciary, the secret services and the public administration.

Reaching a deal with Greece and convincing the domestic public to support it, and the EU-sought reforms, will to some extent depend also on the cooperation of the right-wing opposition VMRO DPMNE party.

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