Macedonia's deputy prime minister warned on Friday that Russian military intervention in Georgia could encourage fringe elements in his country if its bids to join the EU and NATO were not unblocked quickly.
Ivica Bocevski said there were two possible spinoffs in the Western Balkans from the Georgian crisis -- a spread of pro-European ideas or a spread of uncertainty.
He warned that further delay to efforts by the former Yugoslav republic to join the European and NATO could encourage 'marginal forces'.
'We need the opening of the negotiations, we need to see this process started and we need to see this process moving,' he told a seminar in Brussels. 'If the EU and NATO perspective is prolonged, cynicism can easily kick in.''We can imagine the whole European periphery as a great chessboard...if this chessboard is not filled by our figures, then the one playing against us can easily fill their place.'
Bocevski criticised Greece for using a dispute over the name of Macedonia to block his country's progress and added: 'We would like to urge the European Commission not to regard the name issue as an obstacle to our accession progress.''The momentum for permanently solving this potentially dangerous issue
is now,' he said. 'The EU's mission is to secure peace, prosperity and stability
to the whole European region; it can only be achieved by bringing Macedonia from
the periphery to the core of the European Union.'
Macedonia won EU candidate status in 2005, but the name row with Greece has delayed the setting of a date for the start of EU membership talks as well as its NATO bid.
Greece objects to the use of the name Macedonia, which is also the name of its own northern province, birthplace of national hero Alexander the Great. It says use of the name by its neighbour implies territorial ambitions.
The tiny Balkan state is known at the United Nations and other international bodies as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia', pending a settlement of U.N.-led talks with Greece.
On Thursday the European Commission -- the EU executive -- said Macedonia also needed to clean up its internal politics, including the way elections are conducted, to secure the start of membership talks.
Macedonia's general election in June was marred by violence and intimidation in mainly ethnic Albanian areas, posing a question mark over its ability to meet criteria to join the EU such as the rule of law and respect for minorities.