A Connemara-born EU envoy in Macedonia is striving to take the tiny Balkan republic into the EU and Nato.
Career diplomat Erwan Fouere is the EU’s special representative in the landlocked country, which held trouble-free elections earlier this month.
The 25-member bloc accepted Macedonia as an EU candidate in December and is due to review its progress on key economic and judicial reforms in October.
Mr Fouere said: “The parliamentary elections were a key test of the political maturity of the country and I was impressed to see how people were determined to come out to vote and not feel intimidated.”
“We are currently progressing well with judicial and economic reforms that have been requested by the European Commission.
“Macedonia is also ensuring that its foreign policy contributes to continued stability in the Balkans region.”
Mr Fouere, 60 from Cleggan, also liaises closely with the US ambassador in the region as well as Nato reresentatives.
Macedonia, about the size of Wales, has a multi-ethnic population comprising 64% Slav and 25% ethnic Albanian, with 11% from other minorities.
It split from Yugoslavia peacefully in 1991 but ethnic conflict broke out in 2001 when a six-month revolt by Albanian rebels drove it close to civil war until the EC and UN intervened.
Mr Fouere was previously head of the EC delegation in Slovenia.
In a long career, he also led the first EC delegations in Mexico and Cuba in 1989 and later fulfilled the same role in South Africa in 1994.
He also served as head and deputy head in Latin America in the mid-1980s.
A graduate of UCD, Mr Fouere studied in Brussels and Nice during his career.
The Irish Defence Forces have military observers stationed in Macedonia.