By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The Joint Macedonia-EU Parliamentary Committee has expressed concern about the omission of the adjective “Macedonian” from this year’s European Commission report on the country, urging a more sensitive approach in future.
At the end of the two-day meeting on Thursday and Friday in Skopje, the Committee advised the European Commission to consider the sensitivity of this issue when writing the report next year.
The Committee’s co-chair, German MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, explained that they adopted an amendment that advises the European Commission to have in mind that the omission of the adjective has caused a “negative perception” among Macedonians.
Chatzimarkakis, on Thursday said that the omission was “not acceptable”.
“We have talked about finding a solid solution, as this act has stirred reactions here and we don’t wish to undermine the EU’s image and risk its 90 per cent popularity rating in the country,” Chatzimarkakis said.
Saying that the omission of the adjective had created a “problem” and a “gap” between Skopje and Brussels, the co-chair from the Macedonian side, Kenan Hasipi, hoped that both sides would use the meeting in Skopje to iron out their differences.
For the third consecutive year, the Commission this autumn urged a start to membership talks with Macedonia, a move that has been blocked by Greece.
Athens argues that use of the name Macedonia suggests a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.
On receiving the report last month, the government protested loudly against the omission of the adjective “Macedonian”, which was used in the previous reports.
This year’s report instead uses the provisional UN reference, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM. In the early 1990s, Macedonia was accepted into the UN under this reference in order to avoid confrontation from Greece.
While generally praising the country for meeting the EU’s political criteria, holding good parliamentary elections and improving political dialogue, the Commission adopted a critical tone on several other areas this year.
The Commission said more work needed to be done to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, reform the public administration, repress corruption and protect free expression in the media.
In his reaction to the report, Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, accused Brussels of “exaggerating” the country’s problems.
Gruevski claimed that the criticisms formed part of an attempt to force the government to accept an unfair deal with Greece over their bilateral name dispute.
But the EU Delegation Charges d’Affaires, Robert Liddell, sounded a conciliatory note in Skopje, insisting that the Commission’s renewed recommendation of a start to accession talks represented recognition of the government’s work.
The European Parliament rapporteur on Macedonia, Richard Howitt, added that the EU was pressuring both Skopje and Athens to settle the name dispute.
“The EU doesn’t wish to delay the European perspectives of Macedonia and the countries in the region,” he said.
The meeting in Skopje brought together Macedonian legislators and Members of the European Parliament for the first time since the country held early general elections in June.
The adopted recommendations are expected to be mentioned at the forthcoming EU Ministerial Council held before the year’s end.