Macedonian, Greek PMs Met Thursday

Macedonian Premier Nikola Gruevski held a short informal meeting with his new Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, on Thursday in Brussels.

The parlay, which took place on the sidelines of an EU Council meeting, was expected to focus on the countries’ name dispute, but both leaders left after the meeting without addressing reporters so this was impossible to confirm as of Thursday evening.

The Greek prime minister reportedly proposed the meeting during a telephone conversation with Gruevski on Wednesday, in which the Macedonian leader congratulated Papandreou on his October 4 election victory and assumption of the prime minister’s post.

The previous Greek government blocked NATO’s issuance of an invitation to Macedonia to become a full pact membership and threatened to veto Skopje’s EU accession process.

Athens insists that Skopje’s formal name, Republic of Macedonia implies that its neighbour is making territorial claims on a northern Greek province.

The election of the Papandreou government has raised hopes for a possible breakthrough. The negotiations on the name dispute are ongoing under UN auspices.

In a joint press conference on Wednesday, Gruevski and his host, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, expressed hope that the dispute would be resolved shortly.

Earlier this month, the European Commission recommended the start of Macedonia’s EU accession talks. Efforts are now being made to resolve the name dispute before December’s EU Council meeting, in which Macedonia hopes to secure a firm date for start of EU negotiations.

For that to happen, all 27 EU member states, including Greece, will have to vote in favour. Athens has confirmed that this will depend on the resolution of the name spat.

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