Croatian centre-right MEP Dubravka Šuica has cautioned that failure to push through Macedonia’s proposed name change will be “disastrous” for the country and the wider region.
Šuica, a deputy chair of the foreign affairs committee, told this website: “Unfortunately, the consequences could be very tough for Macedonian citizens.”
“Greece has long blocked Macedonia’s aspirations to EU and NATO membership over its name, which Athens said implied territorial claims to a Greek province of the same name. But the two countries struck a deal in June under which the ex-Yugoslav republic would become North Macedonia to end a 27-year dispute.”
A Macedonian referendum on the agreement failed to pass the turnout threshold of 50 percent, leaving it up to the Skopje Parliament to settle the issue.
Šuica, a Balkans expert, said, “If the name change does not go through, it is highly unlikely that Greece will break the diplomatic logjam and therefore they will continue to block Macedonia on their Euro-Atlantic integration path.”
She added, “This will impede Macedonian progress and development, thus bringing more uncertainty to the region that could result in decreased regional security."
“Such a scenario would be devastating as Macedonia has proved its value, is intent to join our family and has been a loyal EU ally through recent crises. I really hope that a solution will emerge because the current situation is not in interest of anyone.”
“The question of Macedonia is very important for regional peace, prosperity and stability. Implementation of this decision will create the necessary new enthusiasm for Euro-Atlantic integration and speed up the process of NATO accession"
The MEP, who is head of the Croatian EPP delegation in parliament, says she is “pleased that the Macedonian parliament, after much deliberation, managed to vote in favour of the proposed name change, as turning down this proposal would bring Macedonia again to deadlock.”
She added, “The question of Macedonia is very important for regional peace, prosperity and stability. Implementation of this decision will create the necessary new enthusiasm for Euro-Atlantic integration and speed up the process of NATO accession."
“This is the path that Macedonia, as a proven Western ally, has to follow. Recently, there have been many positive decisions on both sides that contribute to peace and stability. I hope that Greece will also show the same responsibility, as good neighbourly relations are crucial in this matter and, if so, I expect that this process will continue and Macedonia joins us at the EU table.”
“Macedonia's pro-European Prime Minister Zaev stated that he would press forward with the change of the country's name despite the low turnout on the referendum. Turnout was only 37 percent because opponents of this new name agreement called their supporters not to vote.”
“Prime Minister Zaev has the support of 91 percent of those who cast their vote, and I think that this is a unique opportunity for Macedonia to finalise this question, stabilise as a country and affirm its statehood.”
Šuica disputed suggestions that the EU is losing influence in the Western Balkans, but added, “It is true that certain powerhouses such as Russia, Turkey, China, and Saudi Arabia are present in the region, but none of them are as involved in the region as the European Union is.”
“Almost all countries in the region are candidate countries for enlargement, including Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo also both have the clear prospect of joining the EU in the future but have not yet been granted candidate country status.”
“In my opinion, there is no dilemma. This region is wholeheartedly European. I think that Bosnia and Herzegovina is very important due to its geostrategic position and due to its political composition. It has become even more important after the last elections because all three constituent peoples, according to the Dayton Agreement, are constituent de jure but not de facto.”
“There is no one more important than the EU to solve this issue and the EU should definitely be present both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of the region.”
The EU recently introduced its Strategy for Western Balkans, confirming that the European future of the region is in line with the desires of candidate countries. The strategy also lays down priorities and areas of cooperation, addressing the specific challenges the Western Balkans face, in particular the need for fundamental reforms and good neighbourly relations.
“When and not if, EU enlargement happens for these Western Balkans countries, I can say with certainty that the EU is there to stay. Of course, EU enlargement is a merit-based process and it depends on the concrete results achieved by each individual country. According to this strategy, bilateral issues should be solved before joining the EU, especially regarding relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and in my opinion the land-swap could be a dangerous precedent.”