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News 19 Dec 12

Macedonian President 'Disappointed' by EU Council

President Gjorge Ivanov, in his annual address to parliament on Tuesday, expressed regret about the outcome of the EU Council, delaying a decision on Macedonia's membership talks.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

President Gjorge Ivanov in the parliament | Photo by: president .gov.mk

Macedonia's President said that despite the blockades on Macedonia's EU integration process coming from neighbouring Greece and Bulgaria, his country remained committed to the process and to building stronger neighbourly ties.

"I am afraid that the postponement of the enlargement process for Macedonia and for the region is not helping the achievement of the commitments of the founders of a united Europe," he said. "I regret that they failed to send a real message” the President added.

At the EU summit this month, at which Macedonia had hoped to obtain a start date for membership talks, Greece found an ally in Bulgaria in preventing this from occurring for a fourth year in a row.

While Greece cited the longstanding dispute over Macedonia's name, to which Athens objects, Bulgaria accused Macedonia of failing to nurture good relations.

As a result, the EU Council delayed making any decision on opening accession talks until a report of the European Commission on Macedonia is published in spring 2013.

“Despite everything, we not only remain loyal to our Euro-Atlantic orientation and integration, but will also adhere to the [EU's] recommendations and intensify our efforts”, Ivanov told parliament.

The President said that openness to all of Macedonia's neighbours would remain his highest principle, although he admitted that opportunities for strengthening bilateral ties had been missed in the past.

Regarding the name dispute with Greece, Ivanov said that "a mutually acceptable solution can be reached if we are not faced with ultimatums and requirements detrimental to our national interests and identity.”

He urged the UN mediator in the name talks, Matthew Nimetz, and the UN Secretary General, to keep the negotiation process “within its framework” and not put Macedonia's identity in question.

“We hope that in the time ahead, the process will be led in a spirit of tolerance, mutual understanding and reason, something that we, as a party, have never lacked," Ivanov said.

Ivanov also mentioned a number of ethnic incidents that happened over the past year, stressing that strictly abiding to the principles of the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement would be the best way of avoiding further turbulence.

In 2001, Macedonia suffered a short, violent conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels, which ended with the signing of an agreement granting greater rights to the Albanian comunity.

While Macedonia's ruling parties praised the speech, the opposition Social Democrats said that it resembled a speach written by a government spokesperson.

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