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Füle: Macedonia’s EU talks could start without name resolution

November 13, 2012

By Andreas Rinke, Reuters, 09.11.2012

(Reuters) – The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia could open accession talks with the European Union next year without resolving its decades-old dispute with Greece over its name, the EU’s enlargement chief said on Friday.

Greece has blocked the launch of negotiations because the former republic calls itself “Macedonia” — a name Athens says is a territorial appropriation of the name of its northern Greek province — and because it claims a legacy to Alexander the Great.

EU Commissioner Stefan Fule told Reuters in an interview, however, that positive signs from the two capitals indicated that a resolution of the name dispute could now come after the start of talks and not be a precondition for them starting.

Keeping the tiny Balkan state indefinitely in the waiting room risks further stoking dangerous ethnic tensions between its majority Slav population and its Albanian minority, he added.

“We strongly believe that it is the early stage of the negotiation process which could create the necessary momentum for not only addressing but solving this problem,” he said.

“And we also say quite clearly that if this would not be the case, we could guarantee … that not solving the issue at an early stage would result in slowing down and eventually holding up the negotiation process,” Fule added.

The Czech commissioner linked an upsurge in ethnic clashes in Macedonia this year to a continued lack of progress in Skopje’s bids to join the EU and NATO because of the name issue.

“I think it (the violence) is a result of the stalemate in the Euro-Atlantic process,” he said.

Ethnic violence brought Macedonia to the brink of civil war in 2001 and a decade later tensions persist, fuelled by poverty and the slow pace of integration with Europe. At least a quarter of Macedonia’s 2 million people are ethnic Albanians.

In his interview, Fule also dismissed criticism that Croatia would not be ready to join the EU on schedule.

The president of Germany‘s Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, Norbert Lammert, said last month the EU should not take in new members for the time being because of the euro zone crisis and also expressed doubts that Croatia was ready to join.

(Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Foreign Ministry spokesman’s response to questions concerning Commissioner St. Fule’s interview to Reuters

Friday, 09 November 2012

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras made the following statement in response to journalists’ questions regarding Commissioner Stefan Fule’s interview to Reuters, in which he made reference to FYROM’s EU accession process, the name issue and interethnic tension in that country:

“To the extent that Commissioner Fule’s views are accurately reflected in the Reuters interview, it is hard to see what his conclusions are founded on. It would probably be a good idea for him to reassess and reconsider all the facts at his disposal”.

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