Athens and Skopje have given a cautious welcome to a proposal from EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule to hold talks over the Macedonia ‘name’ dispute.“Greece is not opposed to meetings in principle, under the condition that there be good preparation and, mainly, that a substantial result be ensured,” said Greek foreign ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras on Wednesday.
Macedonia’s foreign ministry has not responded publicly yet, but informed sources told Balkan Insight that it too would have no objection to a trilateral meeting with Greece and the EU.
But Athens and Skopje are already involved in UN-led negotiations with mediator Matthew Nimetz, and the Greek foreign ministry said that because the next talks are due to be held on January 29-30 in New York, “consequently, at this stage there is no issue of a meeting of the ministers of the two countries with Mr. Fule”.
Fule said in a letter last week that the proposed meeting should be used to promote the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries.
His new initiative follows a recent statement by the EU Council saying that any decision on opening accession talks for Macedonia would be based on a report by the European Commission due to be published in spring this year.
The report will assess whether Macedonia has made genuine steps forward towards reaching a deal with Greece over its name.
A Macedonian political analyst said that the EU initiative could help to boost the UN negotiations.
“On one hand, Fule wants to have a more direct insight into the name talks, and on the other, to influence their moving forwards towards a solution. It does not mean a parallel process to that with the UN but only its support,” Vasko Popetrevski, a professor at Skopje state university’s law faculty, told Deutsche Welle.
Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.
Macedonia has obtained annual recommendations for a start to EU membership talks in European Commission reports since 2009.
But it has never been offered a date for the talks because of the Greek blockade related to the dispute over its name.