Athens considers plans for July 2018 Macedonia/FYROM NATO accession unworkable

GEORGI LICOVSKI

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (R) with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (L) attend a press conference in Skopje, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) 18 April 2018. Mogherini arrived in Skopje after the European Commission recommended the opening of negotiations with FYROM for its integration in the EU. EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI

While NATO accession possibility this year recedes, EU accession path held open


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Announcing his assessment that more time is needed to complete Greece-Macedonia/FYROM Name Dispute negotiations, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told an Athens radio station April 18 that the possibility of implementing any deal before the July NATO summit in Bucharest was now practically zero.

“It is totally clear that FYROM will not join NATO (in July),” Kotzias said. “If we are to have an agreement, we must agree on constitutional changes. So it will go back to the fall.”

The reaction, so far, to this bombshell in Skopje has been muted and there has been no public comment from UN Mediator Matthew Nimetz.

Speaking at an International Digital Summit being held in Skopje, Macedonia/FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said “We’re focused on plan A. We want to persuade everyone, including Greece, that Macedonia’s accession in the EU and NATO is a good thing not only for Greece but for other countries too. I think that chances for success are greater now and we should focus on this plan.”

Dimitrov was referring to information that surfaced in the Greek media last month about a so-called Greek “Plan B” which would keep negotiations alive even if the July NATO Summit target for reaching a deal was not met, which appears to be the case now.

The path for EU accession appears less cluttered at the moment, at least from the Brussels vantage point, but progress here will ultimately require Greek approval which most certainly will not happen before the Name Dispute is resolved. Nonetheless, the country received good news from European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini April 18 during her Skopje visit.

In a meeting with FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Mogherini told him, “You’ve gone a long way and, yes, the good news is that you’re back. I think this is a major achievement you have to be proud of. You can celebrate.”

She also urged Zaev to deepen and maintain the recommended economic reforms needed to meet EU standards. Mogherini reaffirmed her belief that it was “definitely possible” for Greece and Macedonia/FYROM to reach an agreement before the next scheduled EU summit in June, putting her at odds with the Greek assessment of the state of play.

The next scheduled meeting between Greek and Macedonia/FYROM foreign ministers is set for early May in Thessaloniki at a regional summit.

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