The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) took a step closer to EU membership talks on Tuesday.
European Commissioner for enlargement Johannes Hahn arrived in FYROM to begin the steps necessary for Skopje to start EU accession discussions in 2019. This has been made possible by an as-yet-unratified agreement to rename the state ‘North Macedonia’ struck recently with Greece.
The country will also have to undergo a series of internal reforms to comply with EU standards.
FYROM’s path to both EU and NATO membership had been blocked by the two-decade ‘Macedonia’ name dispute with Greece. NATO recently announced that it would formally invite Skopje to begin dialogue on joining the military alliance.
Hahn, who recently received criticism for purported comments about Greece’s border with Albania, also called on the FYROM electorate to vote in favor of the deal later this year in a planned referendum.
However, his visit comes amid allegations from the country’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, that Russian money is being used to fund protests and opposition in FYROM to the name deal with Greece, in an attempt to scupper its NATO ambitions.