A resolution of the ongoing name issue between Greece and Macedonia “will bring clear benefits to both countries and the region”, Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday.
“And you can rely on the U.K.’s full support in this,” May said during her visit to Macedonian capital Skopje, which is a first by a British premier to the Balkan country in 20 years.
“Just 18 months after parliamentary elections, we’re already seeing significant changes and a government that is working hard to uphold the rule of law, reach out to its neighbours and make progress in negotiations on the name issue,” she said.
May visited Macedonia following the first EU Summit since 2003 with the Western Balkans in Bulgaria.
She said: “Leaders from across Europe and the region were working together to discuss the next steps we could take to help deliver stability, security and prosperity for the Western Balkans.
“I know that the conflicts of the past can sometimes seem almost impossible to overcome.”
Underlining that “many difficult questions remain unresolved, including internal conflicts in the region, serious and organized crime, illegal migration and extremism”, May urged to be “alive to the challenges of the past, yet remain ambitious in securing the peaceful, prosperous and democratic future that your citizens and communities deserve.”
She said “the U.K. has quadrupled the support we give to Macedonia to contribute towards this government’s reform programme.”
The prime minister said the U.K. will host the next Western Balkans Summit in London in July as part of the Berlin process.
“Here we will look to strengthen regional security cooperation in the Western Balkans, improve economic stability, and foster greater political cooperation and overcome legacy issues stemming from the struggles of the past 30 years.”
May also thanked Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev for the response to the Salisbury chemical attack.
Zaev said the next EU-Western Balkans Summit in London will be a positive affirmation of regional cooperation in the area of economy, transport, security and integration of Western Balkans.
He said the Western Balkans “deserves” to be part of Europe’s future.
The Macedonian premier said Macedonia's Europe-Atlantic integration is important for both itself and the region.
“This means [better] economy and perspective for Macedonian citizens and the region, and it means stability and security for the EU and the world,” he added.