EU socialists chief: North Macedonia name change deal should be ‘preserved’

The leader of the Socialist group, Iratxe García, said that "this sub-committee can make a crucial contribution in supporting the recovery plans" [EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

When the EU fails to deliver its promises, it loses its credibility and shows little sense of historical responsibility towards the Balkans, Iratxe García, the leader of the Social Democrats in the European Parliament, has said.

“Accession talks have always been a magnet for more democracy and social progress, and a light of hope for citizens,” the Spanish politician said, referring to the recent EU Council decision not to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

Following the French veto in the EU Council, North Macedonia PM Zoran Zaev called for snap elections in the Balkan country. But that could further complicate the issue, and impact the implementation of the recent name change deal between Athens and Skopje.

In an interview with Euronews, Zaev said the EU Council veto on opening accession talks with his country could partly “freeze” the agreement.

“There is a link between the implementation of the Agreement and the opening and closing of accession chapters; especially for domestic use in some cases,” Zaev told Euronews. He added that North Macedonia did not expect immediate accession but that starting the accession talks would motivate the country to stay on the right course.

Speaking to Greek TV channel ONE, García called on politicians to save the deal.

“The Prespa agreement between Greece and North Macedonia should be preserved,” she said.

García also lashed out against French President Emmanuel Macron, describing his veto “unacceptable” and called on the EU Council to reconsider its decision soon.

“My group will call for this item to be put back on the European Council agenda before the spring, hoping that the other European leaders will finally persuade Macron to show a true European vision, also for the Balkans,” the S&D chief said.

The role of Le Pen

Niko Kotzias, the former Foreign Affairs Minister who negotiated the Prespa Agreement, wrote in an opinion column that Macron’s veto was targeted at the French domestic audience, and an attempt to counter rising support for far right leader Marine Le Pen.

“Ahead of the regional elections, Macron exercises international policy by looking at the interior of his country and his electoral needs. The worst way to deal with foreign policy issues,” Kotzias said.

He added that Macron is under pressure from the far right because of the thousands of Albanians seeking asylum in France.

“The solution, however, is not to adopt Le Pen’s ideas, but to back a policy that eradicates the causes of immigration from Albania. That is, the opening of negotiations with this country,” he added.

(Edited by Benjamin Fox)

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