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Greece and Macedonia to strengthen bilateral cooperation in energy, name differences remain

17 December 2015 / 19:12:45  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Greece and Macedonia are strengthening their efforts to improve bilateral relations, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries told the media after their meeting in Athens.

Greek Minister Nikos Kotzias said he had talked with his counterpart Nikola Poposki to strengthen cooperation in the field of economy, tourism and with regard to the European perspective of Macedonia.

Both he and his colleague Nikola Poposki pointed out that one of the topics discussed was the connection of Macedonia to the Greek system of energy networks. "Remember that Greece is first on the list of foreign investors in FYROM. We believe that we need to expand this cooperation," said Kotzias.

"Greek institutions have talks with us, which is a very important step. Both countries have many common strategic interests and bilateral relations should develop in a spirit of cooperation. Except for the name dispute, it is of interest to both countries to work better with each other," the Macedonian Foreign Minister said in turn.

In connection with the dispute over the country's name, Nikola Poposki refuted the expectations that Athens and Skopje might be close to a solution, which have been created by publications in the foreign and Greek press.

"The positions of both countries are known and there are substantial differences in them. And for that reason we have mountains to climb to come to a solution," he said.

For his part, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said, "Negotiations over the name are taking place at the UN with the assistance of Mr. Nimetz. We are seeking a fair consensus that will fight extreme nationalism and irredentism, and help the future perspective of both countries. As you know, negotiations are taking place within the UN and their contents are not made public."

The statements of the two ministers are available here:

Asked whether the Macedonian government would hold a referendum on a possible change of the country’s name, Nikola Poposki was adamant. "Yes, we have the political commitment not to accept any solution. It cannot introduce changes to the Constitution and our national traits if not supported by citizens in a referendum."

During the meeting, the two ministers also discussed the refugee crisis and the need to strengthen cooperation in this direction. "We have the same interests regarding this issue. The big problem is that those migrants who are arriving on the Greek islands are passing over our territory. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are a problem for Greece with its popoulation of 10 million and an even bigger problem for us, having a population of 2 million. Therefore, we must all together secure the safe and humane passage of these people. That is why we have put entanglements on our border. They are aimed at acting preventively against illegal crossing so that all refugees are taken to registration centres. When the registration system is properly organized, we will not be forced to put entanglements. We do not want fences along the border between two European countries. This kind of border, with fences, cannot be a long-term solution," said Macedonian Foreign Minister, who earlier today met with Greek Deputy Minister for Public Order Nikos Toskas with whom he discussed matters related to the police cooperation between the two countries, which is being developed.

After the joint statements to the media, Nikola Poposki invited Nikos Kotzias to visit Skopje again. His visit to Athens today followed the visit of ther Greek Foreign Minister to Skopje on 24 June, which announced 11 measures to build mutual trust between the two countries. They are related to cooperation in education, culture, trade, transport services, energy, national security, justice and the resumption of political talks between the Foreign Ministries of Greece and Macedonia.

Tags: PoliticsVisit of Macedonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs to AthensName disputeStrengthening cooperationEnergyNikola PoposkiNikos Kotzias
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