Macedonia Expects Barroso’s Support

resizer48MACEDONIA

Macedonian Premier Nikola Gruevski hopes that Jose Manuel Barroso’s reelection on Wednesday as head of the European Commission, EC, will be positive for his country.

On October 14, the EC will issue its annual report on Macedonia’s reform progress. In a congratulatory letter to Barroso, Gruevski said he hoped the report will include a recommended starting date for Macedonia’s EU accession talks.

“Getting a date for the start of accession negotiations and visa liberalisation will send a strong signal to the citizens of Macedonia that the EU’s doors are open. I sincerely hope that 2009 will be of key importance to our Euro-integration process,” Gruevski wrote in his letter.

“In this sense, I expect your personal [support] and the support of the European Union,” he told Barroso.

Macedonian media speculate that the EC will likely recommend the launch of accession talks, since Macedonia has completed benchmark reforms through the adoption of several key laws this summer.

But unnamed sources in Brussels are cited as saying that a specific date for the start of the talks might not be included in the report, in order to satisfy Greek interests. They say Greece would like to avoid imposing a second blockade on its neighbour, which it would be under pressure to do in the event a specific date recommendation is made.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said recently that Athens is already lobbying to ensure the EC report reflects the “true situation” in Macedonia.

Last year, Athens blocked Skopje’s NATO accession, arguing that the country’s formal name, Republic of Macedonia, implies that it is making territorial claims on its own northern province of Macedonia. Greece warned that it would also block Macedonia’s EU accession, pending a solution to the long-standing name row.

On Wednesday, a delegation from the Macedonian parliament’s Commission for European Affairs briefed European lawmakers on the adoption of the four key laws requested by EU enlargement commissioner Ollie Rehn.

They stressed that Macedonia’s expected inclusion in the EU visa liberalisation scheme, from January 2010, cannot stand in place of accession negotiations.

Macedonia was granted the status of an EU candidate country in 2005. Since then, the EC has failed to recommend accession talks, citing insufficient reforms.

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