Fule: Name row could be settled by year's end, reforms must resume

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule has voiced optimism saying he expected the name issue between Greece and Macedonia to be settled by year's end.
"A name settlement is good for the country, for the people and businesses. Your country deserves to be a part of the positive picture," the EU commissioner told a joint press conference with PM Nikola Gruevski on Monday.
I'm an optimist, he stressed, that the major dispute will be settled by the end of 2011. This feeling is enhanced by the trust established between premiers Gruevski and Papandreou and their commitment to solve this complex issue. I encourage them to act and make as much efforts as possible to settle the row in due time.
Asked whether a name row settlement would enable EU to launch entry talks with Macedonia, the EU commissioner said: "We must wait for the European Commission progress report on Macedonia to be published on Oct. 12 and see if the country gets a recommendation for start of negotiations as in 2009 and 2010."
"The country has recently made several steps ahead. While meeting with PM Gruevski, I welcomed the swift formation of the government, noticeable reforms in the Judicial Council were made as well as efforts to harmonise with EU policies in several crucial fields. However, there are shortcomings in certain areas and heightened measures are necessary for ensuring that in practice judges and civil servants are hired based on their merits," Fule said adding that the new deputy premier for European affairs, Teuta Arifi might play a vital role in the EU integration process.
During his talks with the PM, Fule highlighted the situation involving media in Macedonia, adding that he had received two letters on the matter - one was sent by a group of intellectuals and the other by 17 non-governmental organisations.
"Both letters are important and refer to the challenges facing the media, but each one perceives them from a different angle. For us it's important the freedom of expression not to be a weak point in your country," Fule said noting that freedom of the press was very crucial and urging current negative trends to be corrected.
The enlargement commissioner, who is in Macedonia to attend a conference marking 10 years since the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, said the document was a positive example showing the world how leaders were able to overcome differences and find a compromise in the interest of their country.
"Your experience as a multi-ethnic and multilingual country will serve you well as future EU member. The European Union is founded on the principle of unity and diversity and I'm glad to see that this important agreement has become part of your country," Fule noted urging current politicians to be as brave as their predecessors 10 years ago and to face the challenges.
PM Gruevski said the meeting with the EU official was open, cordial and constructive. He said he expected the European Commission on Oct. 12 to release an objective report on Macedonia's progress, adding the Commission should remain focused on Balkan countries and their integration to the EU based on their merits.
"Fule's visit is seen as an additional confirmation of the partnership and support given by the European Commission to Macedonia in its EU integration process. At the meeting, I acknowledged the importance of resuming the EU integration process and starting accession talks with the EU. It is our strategic goal and main priority," PM Gruevski stressed.
At the meeting, the premier said he reiterated that Macedonia maintained its active and constructive approach towards the issue involving name differences with Greece under the auspices of the United Nations in order a mutually acceptable solution to be reached without encroaching the dignity neither of Greeks nor Macedonians. Talks also focused on country's achievement and forthcoming activities in key reform areas - judiciary, state administration, fight against corruption, economic reforms and implementation of the Ohrid Accord.
Gruevski vowed the new government would remain dedicated to implementing European standards "not because of EU, but in an attempt to improve the standards of Macedonian citizens."