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Posted on on February 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The case of accession of Macedonia is no laughing matter. It is still unknown how Greece’s current financial and economic troubles will have an impact on the Macedonian name dispute. Athens is currently under tremendous pressure from big eurozone countries such as Germany and France to cut back spending and provide accurate data on its deficit, while facing unprecedented scrutiny by the European Commission.

Some diplomats suggest that this offers a window of opportunity for clearing the name dispute and should be seized, while others say that because of the painful economic measures, Athens will be even less inclined to compromise on the name issue, a matter of national pride.

But neither are some gestures from the government in Skopje of any help, such as naming the airport and a major highway after Alexander the Great, a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon – moves which prompted fierce criticism in Greece.

Brussels officials familiar with the matter say that if a solution is found, Macedonia’s membership could be coupled with Iceland’s, which has also applied to join the club. Their accession would happen after Croatia’s, which is the closest to EU membership at this stage.

“Once we open negotiations, people are in for a big surprise. Everybody thinks Iceland will have no problems in joining, but actually it is Macedonia who will be flying through the negotiating chapters. Apart from some classical problems with the judiciary and fight against corruption, Macedonia has harmonised its legislation and implemented a lot of EU requirements,” one EU source told this website.

As for Iceland, although it is part of the EU’s internal market, negotiations are likely to run into trouble over fisheries and other topics dear to the Nordic islanders. The current financial dispute with Great Britain and the Netherlands is also not looking good for the EU prospects of Reykjavik. And contrary to the situation with the Balkan country, some parts of the Icelandic political establishment are against EU membership.

For now, both Macedonian and Greek officials, despite the declared willingness to find a solution, have not yet inched closer to a result. The UN mediator on the issue, Matthew Nimetz, is due in Skopje next week. The UN is just the bigger international body to stir the EU soup.

OK, more important to us seems the Financial Times comment from Washington about “Baroso’s man goes to Washington.”

The comment is by Tony Barber who runs a Brussels blog and he addresses the EU appointment of Joao Vale de Almeida to be EU’s next Ambassador to the US.

The outgoing Ambassador is John Bruton who was a former Irish Prime Minister and well known to Congress and the White House when he got his appointment in 2004.

The incoming Ambassador is a Portuguese Eurocrat who worked for Mr. Baroso and is totally unknown to Washington. Indeed some in Washington have seen him as involved as a by-stander to the G8 and G20 meetings, but when faced with him, following the EU elected so called Permanent President and sort of Foreign Ministers, both of whom are totally unknown to Washington, all what they see as qualifications for Mr. Vale de Almeida is that for five years – 2004 – 2009 he was Chief of Staff for the EU Commission’s President Mr. Baroso – the non-permanent and non-rotating – third EU President – of that nebulous intractable – so called European Union – the symbol of its refusal to be united, even though he was the one that did in effect push for the Lisbon rules for creating that goal of a United Europe.

The laughs come up when the author of the note points out that the perception is reinforced by the fact that Baroso has engineered the Ambassadorial appointment for his man in advance of the newly being created EU foreign service under Dame Ashton – who will have her job as who chooses ambassadors.

OK, we hope the EU helps squeeze Greece into allowing its neighbors to chose their own names, and to squeeze Island of allowing its fish to be caught by Greek fishermen. The mess in Cyprus can then be left to the UN to handle that other tough issue and in the meantime – the EU of 27 will require from the world to be seen as an EU of 28 – with the EU itself being the added state that enlarges meeting tables with one more unproductive participant.

The sad thing is that the world needs an EU that amounts to the missing G3 with which China and the US can sit down at a small table before inviting over India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Russia . . . one or two more, and start looking at what is of highest importance for the future of the Planet – issues such as global warming and climate change.

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