Macedonia and Greece must use the window of opportunity before the December EU council to strike a deal on their name spat that continues to block Skopje’s Euro-Atlantic integration, Swedish Foreign Minister said on Tuesday.
“This has to be dealt with bilaterally” Carl Bildt, whose country is currently running the rotating EU presidency, told media in Brussels.
He noted that Matthew Nimetz, the UN Mediator in the ongoing solution seeking talks, should be supported in encouraging both sides to reach common ground in the 18-years long dispute.
“I was talking to [Macedonian PM Nikola] Gruevski and [Greek PM George] Papandreu. There is will on both sides to move forward, there is window of opportunity now, and I can only appeal to both Athens and Skopje to use this window of opportunity,” Bildt said.
Last year, Athens blocked Skopje’s NATO accession over the 18 years-long spat. Athens insists that Skopje’s official name, the Republic of Macedonia, implies territorial claims towards its own northern province — also called Macedonia.
A repeat Greek blockade, this time in the EU in December can be avoided, Greece’s latest stance asserts, on the condition that Skopje accepts a name change. Skopje hopes to acquire a date for its EU accession talks, but Athens has reiterated that this will not happen if there is no breakthrough in the name talks.
Meanwhile, Macedonian leaders convened yesterday and said they will continue to take part in the UN talks in spite of, as they called them, “the extreme Greek positions” a government press release reads.
Macedonia’s negotiator in the name talks, Zoran Jolevski, and his Greek counterpart, Adamantios both met separately with Nimetz last week in New York.
Macedonian media reported, citing unnamed government sources, the negotiation process has dramatically worsened during the last round of Athens-Skopje name talks because Greece stepped up its demands while Macedonia offered no additional concessions.
Both sides neither officially confirmed nor denied these allegations.
Media speculate that some form of the name Northern Macedonia is still on the table in the New York talks.