Spain hopes for a swift solution to the Greek-Macedonian “name” spat that would put Macedonia on the right track towards EU membership, Spanish Prime Minister and EU chairman Jose Luis Zapatero said on Wednesday.
“I have great confidence in the [Greek] Government of George Papandreou, and of course we cooperate on the issue with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Zapatero was quoted by the local MIA news agency as saying.
“I hope we will soon reach a solution, for which both sides have demonstrated a will,” he added while visiting the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Asked by deputies whether the Spanish Presidency would undertake concrete initiatives regarding the Western Balkan’s integration into the EU, Zapatero stated that Madrid followed the EU Council decisions regarding enlargement and fully supported the region’s European perspective.
In December, after Greece objected to extending of a start date for Macedonia’s accession talks prior to a solution of the bilateral dispute, the EU Council postponed any decision on Macedonia for a further six months in the hope that a solution would be found.
Athens objects to Skopje’s constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, arguing that it implies territorial claims against its own territory also called Macedonia.
In 2008 Greece blocked Macedonia from entering NATO, citing the same reason.
Zapatero said that Greece’s initiative for the integration of Western Balkans into the EU by 2014 “deserves attention” and will be promoted during Spain’s presidency.