The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia risks being left behind in the EU enlargement process, but is the key to other Balkans countries joining too, the annual debate on the country’s progress in the European Parliament was told Wednesday.
British Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt who is Rapporteur for the country’s EU accession hit out at attempts to delete reference to the country’s success in the European Basketball Championships as failing to distinguish between legitimate national pride and illegitimate political nationalism.
The resolution prepared by Richard Howitt MEP and voted by MEPs calls for the start of EU accession talks “without delay” and welcomes the high level accession dialogue starting this week as “an opportunity not to be missed.”
The Euro MP warned the debate in Strasbourg, France, there was no “short-cut” to a negotiated solution to the long-running name dispute between the country and Greece, but deliberately uses the term “Macedonian” to refer to language, culture and identity, which he pointed out meets the existing UN accord.
Richard Howitt MEP told the debate:
“This is a country which is about to Chair the Regional Cooperation Council. It hosted the meeting of Ministers of European Integration from across the Balkans in the wake of this year’s Commission Progress Reports. It is a country which has excellent relations with both Serbia and Kosovo.
“Its progress points to the European future of every single one of the countries. But it has to be a European future for every one of the countries.”
Challenging those who he said would unbalance the resolution and send the wrong message to the country, Richard Howitt MEP added:
“Those who wish to delete my reference to the country’s success in the Basketball Championships are wrong.
“It shows we can appreciate legitimate national pride at the same time as warning against illegitimate political nationalism.
“For those who are erecting hoops through which the country must jump, this is one very apt metaphor that they can do it.
“And to those who seek to delete use of the term “Macedonian” to refer to the country’s language and culture, even though it meets the UN accord, you would be sending a signal that we do not understand the feelings of the people of the country or express our desire to back a solution which is fair and just to all.”
Richard Howitt MEP also said recent incidents of inter-ethnic conflict in the country should be heeded in Brussels:
“As I was told in the country: Like a bicycle, for stability you need to keep moving forward,” he added.
The European Parliament backed Richard Howitt MEP’s resolution by 582 votes to 70.