Setting a date for Macedonia’s EU accession talks will double the country’s enthusiasm for adopting reforms, Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki told media on Thursday.
Milososki made the remarks after a regular meeting of Macedonian government officials and EU and NATO ambassadors to the country. Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was also present at the meeting.
“If the EU respects its obligations, the European Commission recommendations, and sets a date for accession talks, it will be an impetus not only for the resumption, but also for the intensification of higher-quality reforms,” Milososki said.
The foreign minister’s statement comes in the midst of rising concern among EU diplomats that the country is lagging behind with its reforms, which are key for making progress in its EU accession bid.
European officials are starting to complain that Macedonia’s political leaders have not done enough to move forward on key reforms, reduce political influence on the judiciary and the civil service and unblock the logjam in dialogue between the main political parties.
“Even if Macedonia solves the name dispute with Greece, we don’t think the country is ready to start the accession talks as there have been setbacks in the reform process,” one unnamed EU diplomat told Balkan Insight last week.” We can bluntly say that the country is in a much worse situation today than it was last year.”
Local media on Friday reported that Christian Hedberg, who is responsible for Macedonia at the European Commission’s Enlargement Directorate, recently warned Macedonian authorities that they had to speed up the reforms immediately and show some results within the next two weeks.
Citing unnamed sources close to the talks Hedberg held with Skopje officials this week, daily Dnevnik says that if there are no results within the next two weeks Brussels will become more vocal about its concerns.
Last year Macedonia got the green light from the EC to start its EU accession talks. However, the talks were not opened, as Greece blocked the decision.
Athens argues that a deal on the bilateral name row must be reached before Skopje can resume its EU integration process and join NATO. Athens insists that Skopje’s official name, Republic of Macedonia, implies territorial claims towards its own northern province, which is also called Macedonia.
EU officials were hoping that a solution to the spat would be found by the end of June, which marks the end of the Spanish EU presidency, but many observers now say there is a very slim chance that this will happen.