Wednesday, 17 October 2018 | News today: 4

Growing optimism in Brussels about possible Macedonia-Greece name deal in June

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Top EU diplomats have been briefing about an optimism prevailing within the Union ahead of the Sofia Summit involving a deal to be concluded by Skopje and Athens next month.

A high-ranking diplomatic source, close to the European Council, held Tuesday a press briefing about preparations leading to the EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia, where the EU leaders are said to be expecting good news from Skopje and Athens regarding the name negotiations.

“There is still no happy ending and there won’t be any this week, but some good progress is made. What’s important is to see a solution to the Greek-Macedonian dispute in early June, which might play a key role in the European Council reaching a positive decision in June,” said the diplomat.

In June, the EU heads of state and government will meet in Brussels for a summit dedicated to enlargement in which the recommendations of the European Commission (EC) presented in April will be discussed including Macedonia’s recommendation for the opening of accession talks.

“It’s a timeframe that we need,” stated the diplomat. The leaders of Macedonia and Greece in Sofia on Thursday will brief about the negotiations.

If Macedonia and Greece reach a name agreement, ‘a positive spillover’ can be expected in the other countries in the region.

“The general atmosphere will be affected, as well as the decision involving Albania,” the diplomat noted.

The European Council points out the 2017 Bulgaria-Macedonia friendship treaty as an example of how two countries in the region are able to settle differences.

“We witnessed the treaty between Macedonia and Bulgaria. There have been many disputable issues, but they managed to solve this problem. This should serve as a model,” the diplomat said also pinpointing the border demarcation between Montenegro and Kosovo as the second ‘positive example’ in the Western Balkans.

Asked whether the EU was considering an alternative for the opening of negotiations without a final compromise over the name issue, the diplomat responded:

“What we need is a positive signal from the bilateral relations. We are still very hopeful that an agreement can be reached in June and we hope (PMs) Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras will justify our optimism even more.”