Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hungary backs Macedonia's NATO, EU entry

SKOPJE, Macedonia-Hungary's prime minister on Thursday offered to support Macedonia's bid to join NATO and the European Union, asserting that European stability cannot be achieved without a stable western Balkans.

"We will do our best to ensure that Macedonia can accede to ... the EU and NATO as quickly as possible," Ferenc Gyurcsany told reporters after meeting with his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Gruevski.

Gyurcsany in on a Balkans tour that will also take in Bosnia and Albania.

Macedonia applied for EU membership in March 2004 and was accepted as a candidate last year, after the European Commission praised institutional reforms following an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001.

The tiny Balkan country hopes to join NATO in 2008 and to start EU entry talks next year.

"It appears to us that the realistic date when Macedonia can receive an invitation to join NATO can be in 2008. We will do our best next week in Riga, so that the message is given," Gyurcsany said.

A NATO summit will be held in the Latvian capital on Nov. 28-29.

However, Gyurcsany warned that Macedonia's road to EU accession will be "much harder" and urged the country to redouble its reform efforts.

"You still need to invest a great deal so that all your goals can be achieved," Gyurcsany said.

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