FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev expressed optimism about reaching a settlement with Greece before the June 28-29 EU summit, following talks with PM Alexis Tsipras last night and today at the EU-Balkan summit in Sofia, Bulgaria.
At the same time, Tsipras said that the aim is to reach a settlement by the time that EU foreign ministers will decide before the June summit which countries to give a date to start accession talks, but he underlined that there are “still major issues that require negotiation and clarification”, as it is a “complex and multi-level issue”.
Tsipras said that he and Zaev spoke for several hours throughout the night last night, and held talks for another hour today.
“We are still not in a position to speak of an agreement… We still have some way to go to bridge the distance,” the Greek PM said.
Zaev confirmed that various scenarios were tabled in an effort to craft a package solution.
“Even if we do not achieve it, we will make the effort,” he said.
The name Gorna Makedonija (Upper Macedonia) appears to be the preferred solution on the name issue, according to sources close to the talks in Sofia, but both Tsipras and Zaev said the name has not been definitively settled either.
“We discussed a [specific] solution of the name dispute that could be accepted by both sides, yet we must both have further discussions in our countries,” Zaev told journalists in Sofia.
“We concluded with a common point and we are discussing that. Our ambition is to find a solution before the June European Union summit. We have built a relationship of unperturbed friendship” he concluded.
EU leaders at the summit congratulated Tsipras and Zaev for the rapprochement and the major progress that has been made after many years.
Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, was among the most optimistic. “I am not speaking about Macedonia. I am not speaking about FYROM, but about the country with Skopje as its capital, and which soon will have a new name thanks to Zaev and Tsipras”.
Tsipras said he also met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron and raised the issue of debt relief, on which he expects a compromise.