The recent steps that Athens and Skopje have taken on the dispute over the use of the name “Macedonia” are extremely encouraging for the future, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after EU foreign ministers met in Sofia.
Mogherini, addressing reporters at a joint news conference with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva on February 16 after the two-day meeting noted that on the name dispute, “there is an ongoing dialogue between Athens and Skopje that is very encouraging, that is happening under UN auspices.
“It is a bilateral exercise that we respect and that we follow with a lot of attention and that we support a lot. And let me say that this is positively reflected, I think, in recent steps that both Athens and Skopje have taken recently, and that are extremely encouraging for the future.”
Mogherini said that she was well aware that “disputes, bilateral issues, are always sensitive in the public opinions on both sides”.
“And this is the nature of disputes of that kind everywhere, all over the world. And it needs a lot of political leadership, courage, but also, I think, clear determination and vision of what is better for your own citizens.
“And I think that we have a good window of opportunity now to link these encouraging steps to a perspective that would definitely be beneficial for the entire region and so also for two countries that in the region have an important role to play. So I am positively impressed and ready to support in all possible manners the ongoing dialogue that is seeing Athens and Skopje very committed. And I hope this can lead to good results soon.”
Mogherini said that the EU ministers had had their traditional exchange of views with the foreign ministers of the candidate countries – Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. These talks had focused on co-operation in the field of defence and security.
She said that the EU ministers had given a good reception to the European Commission’s strategy for the Western Balkans.
“And I would like to stress very clearly one thing that I made clear also last week in Strasbourg, and that we reiterated today with the candidate countries: the Strategy addresses the entire region and does not create different boxes or different categories among the regional partners we have in the Western Balkans.”
Mogherini said that the accession date for Serbia and Montenegro of 2025 was “a realistic, possible perspective – not a target, not an objective”, and the same applied to countries that could start to negotiate from now to June 2018.