Swedish FM in Macedonia ahead of name row talks

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt visited Skopje Thursday on the eve of a meeting of Macedonian and Greece officials aimed at resolving an 18-year-old name dispute, officials said.

Bildt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, met Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, the government said in a statement, adding that a “name issue dispute” was on the agenda along with reforms needed for Skopje’s integration into the EU.

Earlier, state news agency MIA reported that Bildt came to “discuss a way of avoiding a possible Greek veto on the beginning of accession talks with Brussels.”
Greece, which has been opposing international recognition of its northern neighbour under the name Macedonia since 1991, already blocked Skopje’s membership of NATO last year.

Athens considers the name Macedonia part of its Greek heritage because a northern Greek province has the same name.

Gruevski is expected to meet his Greek counterpart George Papandreou on Friday on the sidelines of a regional environmental meeting in northern Greece.
Greece has threatened to block Macedonia’s accession to the European Union unless the name dispute is settled.

The EU granted Macedonia candidate status in 2005 and last month proposed to open membership negotiations with Skopje, without specifying when they would begin. Macedonia hopes for them to start by the end of the year.

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