Even if FYROM meets all the necessary reform requirements, Skopje cannot progress in its EU bid unless the ‘name row’ with Greece is solved, France has warned.
“Without the resolution of the name issue, we cannot move forward, because this issue has to be solved first,” the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner warned on Monday evening after the European Union foreign ministers’ meeting.
“After such a long time has passed, this sounds like a very, very complicated problem, but it is very simple,” he added.
The European Union held a regular so-called “troika” meeting with FYROM.
Despite acknowledging the fact that the country has met many criteria to move forward, and the Enlargement’s Commissioner’s evaluation that FYROM has “plenty of potential to advance in EU integration,” Brussels decision-makers warn again that this could be overshadowed by the political unwillingness of EU member states.
Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, reiterated that the Commission had presented benchmarks this spring as a criteria that has to be fulfilled before FYROM starts accession talks with the bloc.
“But in meantime, it is true that the EU Council functions on the basis of unanimity and this is also the essential factor concerning the decision on opening accession talks with FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia),” Rehn said.
FYROM has been an EU candidate since December 2005 but the country has failed to get a date from Brussels for the start of accession talks.
Initially the key stumbling block was a perceived lack of reforms in FYROM however after Greece practically blocked FYROM’s bid to join NATO in April because of the unresolved row, the ‘name’ dispute has become an obstacle for FYROM in its bid to join the EU.
Athens argues that FYROM’s name might lead to Skopje making territorial claims over its own northern province which is also called Macedonia.
Since April, the United Nations-sponsored talks for finding a solution to the row have intensified but so far in vain. After Skopje took Athens before the World Court over Greece’s effective veto of FYROM’s NATO membership bid last month, the talks have ground to a halt.
FYROM’s Foreign Minister insisted that the name dispute was never a condition when Skopje launched its bid for membership of the bloc.
“I would like to underline that we are glad that the name dispute imposed by Greece is no part of the Copenhagen Criteria and neither of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement,” Milososki said in Brussels, referring to agreements that initially put Skopje on the path to EU membership.
However the European Commission is concerned about presenting a united front on FYROM’s EU bid and wants to ensure this before an ‘avis’ or go-ahead for the start of accession talks.
“The ‘avis’ of the European Commission is important but we need the unanimity of the EU,” warned Jean–Pierre Jouyet, the French Minister for European Affairs.
“Our friends Milosovski and (FYROM Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Ivica) Bocevksi know it very well,” he added.
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