Macedonia expresses discontent with delay of EU accession talks

21:12, December 09, 2009      

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Macedonia is unhappy the European Union has postponed the startup of accession talks with the country because of Greek opposition tied to an ongoing name dispute, local media reported Wednesday.

EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday said the Macedonia issue would not be discussed until the Spanish EU presidency, which runs from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2010. The ministers urged Macedonia and Greece to do more to solve their name dispute.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said the events unfolded as expected, since Greece had announced its intention several times to block his country's EU aspirations if the two nations can't find a mutually acceptable resolution to their dispute.

Athens claims Macedonia's official name implies territorial demands over its northern province, also called Macedonia. Skopje, for its part, says the name is closely linked to Macedonia's identity.

"Greece has already done a big political damage and history will prove this. But we will not be broken by injustice," Gruevski said.

He promised that his country will step up its efforts to gain EU accession and do more to find a solution to the name dispute.

Macedonia has been an EU candidate country since December 2005.In an autumn progress report, the European Commission said Skopje was ready to start accession talks, and recommended member states extend a start date for the western Balkan country.

However, Greece has all along said it will block any decision to give Skopje a start date pending a solution to the 18-year-old name dispute with the country. In April 2008, Greece also blocked NATO's invitation for Macedonia's membership in the alliance for the same reason.

Macedonia's opposition parties have accused the government of not putting enough effort into resolving the name dispute, thus missing a chance at the Brussels meeting to remove the final obstacle to the country's two strategic goals, the EU and NATO memberships.

"The only chance that was missed is a chance to erase ourselves from the map of nations and erase our own identity," Gruevski said in response to the criticism.

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