The European Council this December should extend a start date for Macedonia’s EU membership talks, the European Parliament rapporteur on Macedonia Richard Howitt said.“This country has reached a point when negotiations should be opened,” Howitt said in Macedonia.
“All of my efforts and energy are focused on the attempt at finding real compromises in Brussels in order for membership talks with the EU to start,” Howitt added.
He said a start to talks would motivate the country to continue reforms and solve all its outstanding issues affecting its EU integration process, including the prolonged “name” dispute with Greece.
“I cannot predict on what’s going to happen [in Brussels], I don’t say it won’t happen, what I’m saying is that it should happen,” Howitt said.
In October, Macedonia obtained its fourth recommendation in a row for a start to EU membership talks as part of a generally positive European Commission progress report.
But Europe has not offered a start date for talks owing to a Greek blockade, related to the dispute over Macedonia’s name.
Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia. Both countries are engaged in long-standing talks in the UN to resolve the issue but these have not led to a breakthrough.
During his visit to Macedonia, Howitt on Wednesday met Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Nikola Grueuvski.
MEP Howitt also met the Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs, Teuta Arifi, the head of the opposition Social Democrats, Branko Crvenkovski, and local NGO representatives.