National Press Club

Macedonia Calls for Full European Integration of All Balkan Countries

June 12, 2009 | By Larry K. Wojno

Ivica Bocevski, deputy prime Minister of Macedonia

Ivica Bocevski, deputy prime Minister of Macedonia

Photo/Image: Ben Keller

Ivica Bocevski, deputy prime minister for EU affairs of the Republic of Macedonia, argued for the “full inclusion and integration of all B alkan states into the European Union” within the next decade.

At a June 11 Newsmaker, Bocevski acknowledged that Greek opposition over the name of the Republic of Macedonia is responsible for vetoing Macedonia’s membership into NATO. But he declined to answer specific questions about the name controversy, referring reporters to the diplomatic team currently negotiating that issue. He acknowledged that the name issue was the “800 pound gorilla in the room.”

He stated the need for a stronger, bolder EU leadership that “enlarges the union but not the criteria.” He pointed out that the grand design of a modern Europe underscores inclusion vs. exclusion. Macedonia hopes to gain full EU membership in the next couple of years.

Prior to Macedonian independence in 1991, citizens were free to travel throughout Europe using their Yugoslav passports. Since independence, travel visa restrictions have virtually “closed the border and the minds” of the recent generation of Macedonians. He said 70% of today’s Macedonian population has not had the opportunity to visit a European country due to the cost and red tape of the existing visa requirements. He offered the hope that full European integration would liberalize visa travel regulations for citizens of every Balkan state, not just the Republic of Macedonia.

Macedonia was granted UN membership in 1993 despite Greek opposition and an economic embargo over the name of the new country. Greece cites the name Macedonia is the same as the name of their northern province. Under a temporary arrangement, the UN lists the country as “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” However, final agreement on this is still being negotiated. Over 125 countries acknowledge the country as the “Republic of Macedonia.”