Skopje: Differences Resolved in European Spirit

Differences between two European countries should be settled through mutual understanding and respect, Macedonia’s deputy premier Vasko Naumovski said Wednesday, referring to his country’s row with Greece.

While this week’s EU Council meeting did not give Macedonia a desired start date for accession negotiations, the meeting clearly demonstrated that Macedonia has more friends in the bloc than thought by many, he stressed.

“Macedonia does not accept ultimatums and blackmails, and the Macedonian people will never agree to be stripped from their identity. Differences between two European countries should be solved through mutual understanding and respect, which represents the essence of the common European values”, Naumovski, who is also the minister in charge of the country’s EU accession, told journalists.

EU foreign ministers meeting Monday and Tuesday said they will re-visit the issue of giving Macedonia a start date in the first half of next year, after Greece refused to agree to extend Skopje a date.

Athens claims Macedonia’s constitutional name implies territorial demands over its northern province, also called Macedonia.

Macedonia has been an EU candidate country since December 2005. For a number of years the country did not fulfill necessary criteria, but in this autumn’s progress report the European Commission said Skopje is ready to start talks, and recommended member states extend a start date.

However, Greece has all along said it will block any decision to give Skopje a start date pending a solution to the 18-year-old name dispute with the country. In April 2008, Greece also blocked NATO’s invitation for Macedonia’s membership in the Alliance for the same reason.

Media mention versions of the name Northern Macedonia as a possible compromise that would satisfy both parties.

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