Monday, January 22, 2007

Rupel Assures Macedonia to Get Date for EU Talks by Mid-2008

Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel assured officials in Skopje on Friday, 19 January that Slovenia had made it one of the priorities of its EU presidency in the first half of 2008 to launch negotiations with Macedonia. This means Macedonia has a lot of work ahead, Rupel said.

Addressing a press conference following their talks, Rupel and his Macedonian counterpart Antonio Milososki labelled the visit as a harbinger of more good cooperation between the two countries; Prime Minister Janez Jansa is due in Skopje in a month along with a strong business delegation.

"Prime Minister Jansa mentioned the possibility in Strasbourg on Wednesday, 17 January that as EU president Slovenia would encourage the start of talks between Macedonia and the EU, which does not mean Macedonia will wait for Slovenia's presidency, but it has a lot of work ahead," Rupel said.

Milosovski thanked for the statement made by the Slovenian prime minister, saying it was not just an expression of support, but an encouragement to Macedonia to carry out reforms.

Macedonia was given the status of a candidate for EU membership in December 2005, but it has not been given the exact date for the launch of accession talks. At the presentation of the successive 18-month presidencies in Strasbourg on Wednesday, 17 January, Jansa said Macedonia would get a date during Slovenia's presidency at the latest.

Minister Rupel reiterated Slovenia's readiness to share its experience with Macedonia and in this way to continue to assist the country in its progress towards the EU and NATO. Rupel also underscored that Macedonia should continue its reform process.

Milososki said Rupel's visit was important in what was a vital time for Macedonia's bid to join the EU and NATO. He highlighted that the Slovenian embassy in Skopje took over as the NATO contact embassy in the country on 1 January.

The Slovenian and Macedonian ministers signed an agreement on consular assistance, which Milososki described as a "symbol of strategic partnership between the countries".

Under the agreement, Slovenian diplomatic missions in Tokyo, New Delhi, Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires will provide certain forms of consular assistance to Macedonian citizens.

The two ministers also discussed the wider situation in the region, including the parliamentary election in Serbia and the status of the province of Kosovo. Asked by a reporter whether the pair also touched on the demarcation line between Macedonia and Kosovo, Rupel said the issue was not brought up specifically, but that it was a serious problem which needed to be tackled.

Milososki said this was a technical issue, which was being worked upon. According to him, Macedonia expects the final proposal for the status of Kosovo to be presented by UN special envoy for Kosovo status Martti Ahtisaari would determine the players, the manner and the deadline for the demarcation.

Minister Rupel also met Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Speaker of Parliament Ljubisa Georgievski.

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