Friday, February 08, 2008

EU entry talks with Macedonia

Macedonia may get EU entry talks date this year

There are real chances for Macedonia to start negotiations on the European Union membership in 2008, Slovenian Foreign Minister and President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Dimitrij Rupel, said Friday in Skopje after meeting Macedonian FM Antonio Milososki.

Slovenia, as friendly country and current holder of the EU Presidency, attaches great importance to the cooperation with "the Former Republic of Macedonia", as future EU member, Rupel said, calling the country to respect the EU principle of unity, solidarity and flexibility.

Saying that Slovenia, as the chair, has set the Union's enlargement as one of its top priorities, Milososki expressed satisfaction with the fact that the support for Macedonia was coming in the moment when it expected to get a date for the EU entry talks.

- To that end Macedonia has been investing great efforts, adopting numerous reform laws related to the judiciary, police, public prosecution, combat against corruption, power decentralization, Milososki said.

He also mentioned the vast support (over 90 percent of Macedonian citizens) of Macedonia’s EU integration, saying that the political consensus on the matter was demonstrated by setting up the National Euro-integration Council, chaired by the opposition leader.

Launching of Macedonia-EU negotiations on free visa regime in the near future is also rather significant for the citizens of Macedonia, Milososki said, pointing out that the country has met large number of criteria in that respect.

- Macedonia is ready to enter the visa liberalization talks and hopes for success as soon as possible, Milososki said.

He also underlined that Macedonia was expecting an invitation for NATO membership at Bucharest Summit, along with Croatia and Albania, as the country has met all necessary criteria.

To a journalist’s question why he uses the reference FYROM, considering the fact that Slovenia has recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name, Rupel said he had been using both variants, but in line with his EU role, he was obliged to respect certain rules.

Asked to comment his different statements on the name dispute settlement in the context of Macedonia’s EU-integration, i.e. that the dispute should be resolved now as it would be too late if done in March, which is opposing his earlier statements that the name was not part of the necessary criteria, Rupel said his opinion was insignificant.

- It is a fact that Bucharest Summit will make important decisions. I wish for FYROM, i.e. all three Adriatic Group countries, to join NATO. At the moment my opinion as Slovene Foreign Minister does not count, as Slovenia is not the one that makes decisions, but only one of the countries that participates in the decision-making process of all EU members, Rupel said.

I do not believe that the name is the main problem at the moment, it is not part of any document, but, taking into consideration the discussions within NATO and EU, it becomes clear that this is a significant matter for one or two countries, which may be of essential importance during the decision-making process, Rupel said.

- Slovenia is trying to persuade other countries as much as it can, but the country is not a super power to silence everybody else, he added.

He pointed out that the European Union wished European perspective for all Western Balkan countries.

- At the moment, Croatia is topping the list, followed by, as far as I know, FYROM, which is a candidate country, but yet without a negotiation date. However, Slovenia and the EU are making efforts for Macedonia to get this date as soon as possible, Rupel said.

Referring to Kosovo, Rupel said Slovenia considered that it was a European problem and EU’s responsibility.

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