Zoran Zaev, Macedonian Prime Minister, said in Brussels on Thursday that his country could close its accession negotiations with the European Union in 2025 after the block promised Skopje the opening of the talks in June next year.
Macedonia made a breakthrough in its international position after reaching an agreement with Greece earlier this month on a new name for the country - North Macedonia - thus ending the 27-year-long dispute that prevented its Euro-Atlantic integration.
“According to the current experience, the negotiations last seven years on average. If we follow this dynamic, it is possible that Macedonia will end the talks in 2025 which is the year the EU had planned a new enlargement,” Zaev said, according to the Beta news agency.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels together with President of the European Council Donald Tusk, Zaev said that “big news is confirmed here, in the heart of Europe,” that Macedonia could open negotiations in June 2019.
“Our country deserves it. The EU leaders said it deserved it. The EU recognised that in just a year Macedonia made a big transformation from a trapped country to a state of positive changes,” he said.
Zaev added that the new EU enlargement, which Macedonia would be a part of, should be a consolidation of the EU.
“That consolidation which the leaders of the EU member states rightly look for will be complete when the block accepts the Western Balkans countries,” he said.
While on a two-day visit to Brussels during the EU leaders meeting on Thursday and Friday to try to wrangle a solution on migration, Zaev will have talks with Johannes Hahn, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
After Athens had withdrawn its objections to Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration, Skopje expected an official NATO invitation in July to join the Alliance.