Juncker: Macedonia ‘on right track’, EC might propose start of talks in few months if progress continues

Skopje, 25 February 2018 (MIA) – President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said Sunday that he hadn’t come to Skopje to announce an exact date for the opening of EU negotiations, but underscored that Macedonia was on the right track after making progress.

“We haven’t come here to announce a date, we are here to tell you that your’re on the right track, and if you continue taking this path, within months you will give an opportunity to the European Commission to propose opening of talks to the Council of the EU,” Juncker told a joint news conference in Skopje with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, held after their meeting.

Juncker, who is accompanied by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, said the country had made impressive progress, but it had to take more steps on its path to the EU and noted that the EU would reach decisions about the countries separately, based on their individual merits.

He urged the Macedonian authorities to solve the name issue with their Greek friends.

Juncker said he had met with Greece’s PM Alexis Tsipras in Brussels, where he urged him to remain on the road the two countries were taking at the moment and to keep making the efforts required for solving the name issue.

The top EU official said progress had been made in the process, which was evident with the government’s decision to rename the Alexander the Great airport ‘as a sign of concession in the negotiating process.’

PM Zaev said he told the EC President at their meeting that the country was making efforts to improve its good neighborly relations.

“Macedonia has put an emphasis on building new bridges of cooperation, open dialogue based on mutual respect. It’s not easy to close long-running issues. Encouraged by the friendship treaty with Bulgaria, we have kept on being seriously committed to finding ways to solve the issue Greece has with our constitutional name,” he stated.

Zaev stressed that for the government, a name with a geographical qualifier was acceptable as a solution that would make a distinction between Macedonia and the region in Greece, which is also called Macedonia.

“We are insisting on a solution, a permanent one, a solution that will respect the dignity and protect the identity of the two countries,” the Macedonian Prime Minister concluded.