NEWS

Juncker kicks off 6-nation Balkan tour with visit to FYROM

TAGS: Diplomacy, EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrived in Skopje on Sunday, on the first stop in a tour of six Balkan countries, where talks with government officials were expected to focus on negotiations between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the latter's name.

In a post on Twitter, EC spokesman Margaritis Schinas said noted that Juncker's arrival came after FYROM officials had renamed Skopje's airport and a key thoroughfare, removing the reference to Alexander the Great, in a sign of good will.

Juncker "arrives in Skopje International Airport, then takes the Highway of Friendship," Schinas wrote.

"Best possible start of Western Balkans tour. Healing the wounds of the past, building a European future of stability and new opportunities."

After FYROM, Juncker is to continue his tour with visits to Albania, Serbia, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Juncker's visit is being seen as an attempt to encourage the Western Balkan countries to focus on joining the EU.

Talks with officials in each of those countries are expected to touch on the reforms to strengthen rule of law, crack down on corruption measures, boost the independence of the media and bolster the economy. 

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