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EU official urges N. Macedonia to stick with reform effort

July 25, 2019

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — The European Union’s enlargement commissioner urged North Macedonia Thursday to redouble efforts to reform its judicial system and deliver results in fighting corruption and organized crime in order to start accession talks with the bloc in October.

Johannes Hahn was in the Macedonian capital Skopje on a brief visit for talks with top officials. He said the country was “near to achieving” its strategic goal after reaching a landmark deal with neighboring Greece last year and agreeing to change its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia.

North Macedonia is set to become the next member of the NATO alliance and has been a candidate to join the EU since 2005.

European Union leaders last month took no decision on advancing the membership of North Macedonia and Albania, noting “limited time available” to review progress on reforms but promising to reach a decision in October.

The question exposed divisions within the EU over whether the bloc should focus on boosting integration among current members or continue to seek new members seeking to bolster their own political stability.

Hahn on Thursday said North Macedonia had honored its commitments but still need further reforms.

“I really regret that EU member states did not decide on opening accession negotiations in June because you have achieved and delivered on actually everything which was agreed,” he said after talks with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

“But of course we have to respect the decisions and we have to work that ... I am confident that this decision will indeed be taken in October. North Macedonia has worked hard for it and now it’s time for EU leaders to deliver.”

Zaev, the Social Democrat in power since May 2017, led the effort to end a long-standing dispute with Greece and rename the country as North Macedonia, addressing concerns in Greece which has its own administrative region called Macedonia.

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