Greece and Macedonia are close to resolving their decades-long naming issues that have so far prevented the small Balkan country to join the European Union. Athens has been blocking Macedonia’s EU and NATO membership because of its objections to the country’s name, which is the same as that of Greece’s northern region called Macedonia, named after the kingdom of Alexander the Great. Macedonia, the former part of Yugoslavia, adopted its name when it became independent 27 years ago. In the meantime, the provisional name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – Fyrom – is used by international organizations.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, have recently agreed on almost all the parameters of an international agreement. It is expected that the Balkan country will go by the new name “Upper Macedonia”. If both sides managed to agree on all the details, a final deal could be signed before the next summit of EU leaders in late June, when the European Commission could also kick off accession talks with Skopje.
Despite the positive news, EU member states are generally skeptical about the bloc’s Balkan enlargement and the conditions for admitting new members. European leaders are increasingly concerned about the rising influence of Russia, China and Turkey in the region. French President Emmanuel Macron commented that the recent waves of enlargement had been a factor in the weakening of the EU over the past 15 years. German Chancellor Angela Merkel instead added that the bloc should focus on the pace of economic, political and judicial reforms and not target dates. “Opening up a time horizon, I think, isn’t so important,” Ms. Merkel recently said.