The Belgian EU presidency is willing to help facilitate an agreement between Macedonia and Greece on the name dispute in order to make the start of accession talks between Skopje and Brussels possible.
“Belgium will endeavor to seek an agreement to start accession negotiations,” Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today. Leterme made the remarks while presenting the priorities of his government for its six month presidency of the EU.
This readiness to help Macedonia on its European path was also expressed on Tuesday when Leterme met in Brussels with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski.
Leterme said that his government would attempt in coming weeks and months to negotiate in coordination with Matthew Nimetz, the UN mediator for the name dispute. “I sincerely hope that with the initiative of the Belgian presidency we can promote a solution,” Macedonian media quoted Leterme as saying after his meeting with Gruevski. “People deserve this and Europe deserves this,” he added.
Athens and Skopje are locked in a long lasting spat over the use of the name Macedonia. Athens insists that Skopje’s official name, Republic of Macedonia, implies territorial claims over its own northern province, which is also called Macedonia.
Athens blocked Skopje’s invitation to join NATO in 2008 and has stalled its efforts to join the EU over the unresolved row.
Gruevski, speaking after the meeting on Tuesday, said that many things depend on the steps that will be undertaken by the Greek government, Macedonian media report.
“We don’t want to insist that we are either optimists or pessimists, but we want to find a solution through a process that is led by Mr. Nimetz and we want to continue to search for the solution which would normalize relations with Greece and which would be acceptable for both sides,” Gruevski said.