Gruevski seeks Germany’s support for Macedonia’s EU, NATO bids

photo31.jpgMacedonian Prime Minster Nikola Gruevski arrived on a three-day visit to Germany on Monday (October 16th) hoping to win Berlin’s backing for his country’s EU and NATO bids.

Macedonia was recognised as an official EU candidate last year, but has yet to be given a starting date for its accession talks with Brussels. Gruevski voiced hope that this would happen next year.

His first official foreign visit since taking office in August comes weeks before NATO’s November 28th-29th summit in Riga and less than three months before Germany assumes the rotating, six-month EU presidency on January 1st.

“We place great hopes in Germany as the next EU presiding country,” Macedonian news agency Makfax quoted Gruevski as saying ahead of talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.

He also expressed his country’s commitment to implementing judicial reform and other required measures.

“We are fully focused on reforms — especially the economy and the fight against corruption and criminality,” he said in an interview with the German news agency DPA, noting his country’s ambition to become an EU member by 2013. He said around 95% of the measures stipulated by the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which ended months of ethnic conflict in the country five years ago, have been adopted.

Gruevski also said people in his country felt “disappointed” over the much discussed enlargement fatigue among older EU member nations.

“We are too small a country to be a problem … we only have two million people,” he said, noting that his entire country numbers fewer people than many European capitals.

Stressing Germany’s support for Macedonia’s stable development, Merkel expressed Berlin’s determination to ensure the Balkan nation’s “good path to the future”. But she gave no indication of any specific steps Skopje could expect from the German EU presidency.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso suggested last month that the EU should take a break before admitting new members after Bulgaria and Romania join on January 1st, so that it could conduct pending institutional reforms.

Along with Albania and Croatia, Macedonia also aspires to NATO membership. The Alliance is not expected to invite new nations to join during next month’s meeting in Latvia. However, Gruevski voiced hope Monday that his country would receive such an invitation in 2008 and would become a full-fledged member by 2009.

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