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"Mr President, Macedonia suffers the dubious distinction of being the longest-standing EU candidate state not to have started accession negotiations. The deadlock has now lasted eight years, and it must be extremely galling for the government in Skopje to see Croatia, which gained that status only a year before Macedonia in 2004, set to join the European Union in less than six weeks’ time while Skopje remains totally unable to move on and has now even been overtaken by Montenegro. It is perhaps not helpful to point the finger of blame too much on this point, but my group would urge Greek Government movement on the interminable name issue. There have been encouraging signs from Athens in recent months, but much more needs now to be done to see practical steps taken which will be acceptable to both sides. To my mind it would be nothing short of absurd for Macedonia if the issue of the country’s name choice prevented it from realising its European ambitions. There have been worrying developments recently in Macedonia in its bilateral relationship with Bulgaria. There are delicate issues to be addressed here for sure, particularly regarding the issue of the handing out of Bulgarian nationality, but I would urge the Bulgarians to offer the hand of friendship to their Macedonian neighbours and to support their quest for EU membership which they so much desire. I therefore welcome Richard Hewitt’s sensitive and comprehensive 2012 progress report and commend his work in helping to break the domestic political deadlock in Skopje earlier this year. I encourage all colleagues in this chamber to continue reaching out to Macedonia, which is a stable but highly-challenged democracy trying to secure a prosperous future for its diverse peoples by anchoring its future in Euro-Atlantic structures."@en1

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