Brussels.- (ANA/MPA – A. Panagopoulos)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Vlado Buckovski on Friday morning in Brussels, while in the city to attend the EU leaders’ summit. The meeting was requested by Buckovski and lasted 20 minutes, covering bilateral relations and the difference between Athens and Skopje over FYROM’s name.
In statements afterwards, Buckovski said that this was the first friendly meeting between prime ministers of their two countries and that Greece was among the staunchest supporters of FYROM’s efforts to become an EU candidate-member.
“We will continue to promote our candidacy for NATO entry, so that we finally become a full member in 2008,” he added.
Buckovski also underlined his belief in the need for close political ties between Greece and FYROM.
Referring to the dispute with Greece over the republic’s adopted name of Macedonia – which Greece objects to as historically misleading and a potential lever for expansionist claims against its own northern province of the same name – Buckovski said the two countries would continue to build mutual understanding on the sole open difference between them.
He also noted that “new challenges” in this direction would arise after the general elections held in Greece’s tiny northern neighbour.
According to diplomatic sources, Karamanlis underlined that Greece considers finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue to be one of the conditions for FYROM’s prospects of joining the EU.
The same sources said the talks between the two men covered the situation in Kosovo and Balkan affairs and that their positions on this issue are quite close. They also noted that Greece is FYROM’s top partner for trade and foreign investments and wishes to continue improving relations between the two countries.
Regarding the country’s accession to NATO, there will be no problem if this is done with the name FYROM, diplomats said.
In statements to reporters later on Friday, Karamanlis repeated Greece’s support for FYROM’s European prospects but said that this was inseparably linked with fulfilling specific criteria and prerequisites demanded by the EU, among them that of finding of a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.
The Greek prime minister said that Greece was unquestionably in favour of establishing the stability of security and prosperity in the Balkan region.
He pointed out that bilateral relations with FYROM were already extremely close in the economic sector, that Greek investments in that country represented the most important group of foreign investments and that important opportunities for the future were emerging.