Delivered in Plenary - 11th March 2009
Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and membership has brought many benefits to that country, of which I am extremely fond. But almost 30 years later Macedonia naturally wants to join the European Union and share those same benefits. It is therefore only right that Greece, as a neighbouring Balkan state, expresses its firm solidarity and works to help a small country like Macedonia to achieve its aspirations.
But because of its own province named Macedonia, Greece objects to the use of the name ‘Republic of Macedonia’ on its own, insisting instead on ‘former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’, or FYROM. For the sake of consistency, why does Greece not therefore also insist on calling Estonia the ‘Former Soviet Republic of Estonia’ as a formal title?
I therefore regret that Greece is now considering applying its veto to Macedonia’s membership over this issue. I fear that Greece risks bringing itself into ridicule and I urge the Government in Athens to soften its line. I am known in this House and in my constituency as a strong philhellene and a friend of Greek and Cypriot MEPs alike, but I am also a member of the newly formed EP Friends of Macedonia. Let us resolve this outstanding issue promptly and sensibly. Also I call on the Parliament to send a delegation of MEPs to observe Macedonia’s forthcoming presidential election and help legitimise the outcome.
As regards Croatia’s imminent EU accession, it is regrettable that border disputes with Slovenia remain outstanding. As in the case of Greece and Macedonia, these difficulties must be solved bilaterally rather than being dragged into the EU accession process.
Slovenia joined the European Union while it still had outstanding issues with Italy, which did not stand in its way and try and block its accession, so I see no reason why Croatia should be held back in turn. In a similar vein and in future, I would never countenance Croatia vetoing Serbia’s admission because of territorial disputes.
Of more immediate concern to my electors who are suffering from enlargement fatigue is the scale of organised crime and corruption in Croatia, which the Government must truly make it a national priority to eradicate.