During a visit to Skopje on Friday, European Council President Donald Tusk suggested that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s accession to the European Union was close even as talks between Greek and FYROM diplomats aimed at resolving a dispute over the Balkan country’s name continue.
“A new and very promising chapter in your country’s history will soon begin,” Tusk said, speaking in the local Slavic dialect.
FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev also jumped at the opportunity to play up FYROM’s EU prospects.
“We have never been closer to getting a date for the launch of accession talks with the EU,” he said.
Meanwhile, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, speaking from Brussels following talks with his NATO peers, stressed that Greece and FYROM must reach an “erga omnes” agreement on the latter’s name, meaning that it would be for general use, before FYROM can join NATO.
“The other side has to understand that it must agree to erga omnes so we can move ahead to a comprehensive, positive agreement,” Kotzias said.
Kotzias and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov resumed ongoing United Nations-buffered negotiations aimed at resolving the long-standing dispute over FYROM’s name in Vienna this week.
Despite the positive climate in the talks, the two sides remain gridlocked over Greece’s demand that the name that Skopje will use as part of a deal will be used domestically and internationally and FYROM’s refusal to change its constitution.
Earlier this week, European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn expressed optimism that the name dispute could be resolved within two weeks. The Greek Foreign Ministry called on him to “stop undermining” the negotiations.