Despite intense speculation, it is still not clear whether Macedonia will secure a start date for its EU accession talks at the regular EU foreign minister meeting scheduled for Monday.
Although the European Commission and the European Parliament supported the start of negotiations with Skopje, the chances of Macedonia securing a start date are slim due to Greece’s objections.
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is due to arrive in Brussels Monday, where according to local media he will ask member states to grant Skopje a start date, noting that there are plenty of opportunities further down the EU accession road for Greece to block Macedonia’s progress.
“Although no one from the government has confirmed this, Gruevski might try one last push to convince the EU heads to vote in favor of (extending) a date,” Utrinski Vesnik wrote. His Greek counterpart George Papandreou is due to arrive in Brussels on Thursday, and media do not exclude the possibility of a meeting between the two prime ministers.
The most probable outcomes for Macedonia at the summit are that foreign ministers will postpone the decision on a start date for later in the course of 2010, media speculate. This could mean that a date could be given at the next EU summit scheduled in March.
Until then, the EU Council may recommend in its conclusions that Macedonia and Greece work more intensively on settling their 18-year-long name row. EU ministers might also commend Macedonia’s progress in fulfilling the EU accession criteria.
Last year Athens blocked Skopje from entering NATO due to the name row. Athens claims that Skopje’s constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia implies territorial claims towards Greece’s own northern province which is called Macedonia.
The latest round of UN sponsored bilateral name talks and the recent direct meetings between the two countries’ high officials have resulted in a general warming in relations between the neighbours but produced no compromise.
Observers see a chance for a settlement of the row, citing the relatively new and strongly positioned governments in both countries, as well as the European Commission’s recommendation that member states extend Skopje a start date for accession negotiations.