Macedonia expressed satisfaction Wednesday with a recommendation by the European Commission that EU governments declare Macedonia a candidate for membership. Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for European integration, Radmila Secerinska, said the decision announced in Brussels was a reward for the tiny landlocked country.
"Macedonia got what it expected and what it deserved. We have worked very hard and become a country which is an example for successful transformation. Through this positive opinion, the EU is giving a message to the Balkans that European transformation is possible," she told The Associated Press.
Macedonia applied to join in March, 2004 and has implemented significant political and economic reforms that merit it being declared an EU candidate, the European Commission said in Brussels.
A Western-brokered peace deal ended six months of fighting in Macedonia in 2001. The EU now has a police mission in the country of 2 million, of whom at least 25 percent are ethnic Albanians, overseeing the peace process.
Macedonia, however, could face difficulties from at least one EU member, its southern neighbor Greece with which it has a dispute over its name, the AP informs.
Greece has said it would block the country's accession to international organizations, including the EU and NATO, under the name Macedonia. It calls the country the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," or FYROM, the name under which it joined the United Nations following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
Greece insists on calling its small northern neighbor FYROM, arguing the name Macedonia implies territorial claims toward the northern Greek province of Macedonia and could threaten regional stability.