Now is the right moment for a compromise solution to the row between Athens and Skopje over Macedonia’s name, the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said on Tuesday in Skopje.
During talks with Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, Solana urged the leadership to do everything in its power “not to let the wind of opportunity” pass by.
Asked to explain his comments further, he said that all factors at the moment were tending towards an imminent compromise in the long-standing row that has left Macedonia standing on the doorsteps outside NATO.
Last year Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO accession bid, citing the failure to resolve the row. Greece claims Macedonia’s name implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of Macedonia.
Last week, the UN mediator in the “name” talks, Matthew Nimetz, visited both countries, offering a set of ideas that he described as variations on his previous ideas, presented last October.
In October, media speculated that Nimetz proposed variations of the term “Northern Macedonia”. But details on the extent of its use, as well as guarantees concerning the Macedonian language, were yet to be determined precisely.
“I bring good news for your country”, Solana said, noting that if all goes well, Macedonians could travel without visas to the EU from the beginning of next year.
Solana confirmed that a long-awaited European Commission decision to propose the lifting of visa requirements on Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro would be announced on Wednesday in Brussels by the EU commissioners for justice and for enlargement, Jacques Barrot and Olli Rehn.
At the same time, the EU is expected to note that progress towards scrapping visas for citizens of Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo has been insufficient.
During his stay in Skopje, Solana also met Ali Ahmeti, head of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, a partner in the ruling coalition, and Branko Crvenkovski, leader of the country’s main opposition party, the Social Democrats.
Solana previously visited Serbia and will be heading next to Kosovo. He will wrap up his tour of the Balkans on Wednesday by visiting Montenegro.