Macedonia urges EU to start entry talks

Macedonian President George Ivanov appealed to the European Union to set a date for the start of negotiations with Skopje on joining the EU, almost four years after it was made a candidate, his office said Tuesday.

“The start of the negotiations will be a clear positive signal for Macedonia, but also a strong message for other countries in Western Balkans,” Ivanov said in a letter addressed to EU leaders.

Such a move would strengthen “the credibility of the EU in the region and contribute to the stability and prosperity” of the Balkans, Ivanov said.

In October, the European Commission recommended that negotiations begin with Macedonia on joining the EU, despite opposition from Greece.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as it is formally known given the dispute with Greece over its name.

Greece has opposed international recognition of its northern neighbour under the name Macedonia since 1991 because it considers the name part of Greek heritage. There is a northern Greek province with the same name.

Macedonia has been blocked by Athens from opening EU negotiations until the row is resolved. It was similarly kept from joining NATO in April 2008.
Ivanov said that Macedonia “remains to a process of seeking a compromise” in the name dispute with Greece.

“We are fully committed to finding a solution for this issue as soon as possible and we believe it is possible with constructive approach from both sides,” Ivanov said.

Macedonia has been a candidate country since December 2005, and the European Commission said in its October report that much of the preliminary work has already been achieved although laws on its parliament, civil service and the financing of political parties are also required.

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