Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said he believes a solution to the long-standing 'name dispute' between Skopje and Athens will be reached soon.
Speaking to the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee yesterday (4 February), Moratinos appeared upbeat when questioned about the 'name dispute' opposing the two neighbouring countries.
The 'name dispute' between Greece and Macedonia recently deferred an EU decision to open membership talks with Skopje (EURACTIV 08/12/09).
Questioned by MEPs, he said he believed the Spanish Presidency "can achieve a solution with respect to Macedonia" and praised the "very good" attitude of the new Socialist government in Greece.
The Spanish foreign minister was asked if the EU was prepared to appoint a special EU representative to the region, a position which would be similar to that of Matthew Nimetz, a US diplomat who is the UN's special representative on the name dispute.
Moratinos did not reject the idea, but suggested that adding more negotiators was currently not on the EU presidency's radar. He added that he will be travelling to Macedonia himself "very soon".
According to the Balkan press, Nimetz will visit Skopje and Athens in the next two weeks, with "new ideas".
In another diplomatic move, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski called his Greek colleague George Papandreou on Wednesday, inviting him to meet in Macedonia "or [at] any other venue, determined under mutual agreement".
"The meeting should contribute to the further development of bilateral relations and to the efforts for settling the only open issue between the two countries," a press release reads.
Croatia to close chapters
Moratinos said that he would also visit Croatia, again expressing optimism that the candidate member's border dispute with EU neighbour Slovenia could be solved.
Last November, Zagreb and Ljubljana signed a border arbitration agreement, which helped unfreeze Croatia's EU accession negotiations, but the problem as such remained unsolved and could still negatively affect Zagreb's accession ambitions (EURACTIV 04/11/09).
Moratinos added that Croatia was an "absolute priority," and that two chapters from the accession talks would be closed this month.