Rushed ‘Name’ Talks 'Reflect NATO's Balkan Worries'

UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz

The unusual timing of the round of talks, while Macedonian politicians are focused on the April presidential and general elections and while Greece is gearing up for May local polls, has prompted observers to suspect a link with the crisis in Ukraine.

A former Macedonian Prime Minister, Vlado Buckovski, said the decision to call new talks reflected renewed interest in Brussels and Washington in solving open issues in the Balkans in light of Russian's recent intervention in Crimea.

“This fresh impetus is definitely prompted by events in Ukraine,” Buckovski said.

“In my opinion there is a serious initiative to find a way for Macedonia to be admitted to NATO at the summit in autumn. Holding 'name' talks amid an election campaign is a precedent,” Buckovski added.

“We are talking about an entirely new momentum, with an emergency situation in Europe in the light of events in Ukraine,” Risto Nikovski, a seasoned Macedonian diplomat, agreed.

He said that Nimetz’s move “is part of a new scenario by NATO to do everything it can to include Macedonia because the confrontation between Moscow and Washington is now open, and it is normal to expect greater Russian activity and influence in the Balkans.

"To prevent this, the West must secure all countries that are uncertain [about their allegiances] in some ways,” he explained.

Macedonia obtained EU candidate status back in December 2005, and European Commission reports have recommended a start to membership talks each year since 2009.

But the country has never been offered a date for EU accession talks, nor an invitation to join NATO, owing to a Greek blockade related to the dispute over its name.

Greece insists that Macedonia’s name...

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