Greek PM Alexis Tsipras is due to meet with German chancellor Angela Merkel later today (Friday) at an informal summit of EU leaders in Brussels. The meeting, announced by commissioner Johannes Hahn, will involve discussions on accession talks between Albania and FYROM regarding the gradual integration of the Western Balkans into the bloc.
Hahn told reporters: “The EU Commission will soon recommend, most likely by the summer, that member-states begin accession negotiations with Albania and FYROM. Both countries have made important reforms in the past, and are thus qualified for this step.”
The Greek Parliament is also expected to ratify the second phase of FYROM’s Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. The Balkan nation has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005 but its aspirations were blocked due to its name dispute with Greece. Renewed negotiations have been ongoing between the two countries since late last year to try to come to an agreeable solution.
FYROM have already made several ‘goodwill’ gestures ranging from taking down signposts bearing the name Alexander the Great from its main airport and a key motorway. “Our actions show our goodwill and show that we have no irredentist aspirations,” Zaev said in Berlin on Wednesday. European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas commended the gestures and also announced that unelected president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker will begin a tour of the Western Balkans in Skopje on Sunday.
However, Panos Kammenos, leader of the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), said on Thursday hat his party will do “everything it can” so as not allow a compromise solution with FYROM that will allow it to use the term “Macedonia” in its name. This is a stance that the vast majority of Greeks are taking as was evident with recent rallies, which was attended by hundreds of thousands.