Capital city of North Macedionia – Skopje – regularly registered the most polluted cities in Europe, and sometimes in the world.
In 2018, levels of PM10 – tiny pollutant particles 10 nanometres in size that are harmful to human health – exceeded he European Union limits for a total of 202 days.
While North Macedonia is not part of the EU, it has entered accession negotiations and has some way to go to meet EU ecological air quality standards.
At present, the World Health Organization (WTO) has estimated that around 4,000 premature deaths a year in North Macedonia may be due to air pollution, and the economic cost to Skopje is thought to be between €570 and €1,470 million.
North Macedonia is likely to gain the European Union support to start membership talks later this year, according to the EU diplomats.
“North Macedonia has a good chance, given the historic resolution of its name issue,” the diplomatic source confirmed.
The name change from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Republic of North Macedonia has offered Skopje momentum and is highly likely to persuade Paris, Berlin and The Hague to back EU talks.
Image above: Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, Johannes Hahn, Member of the EC in charge of European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, receive Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of North Macedonia.
Greece urged crowds of illegal migrants who have gathered in the fields along the country’s northern border to return to their initial settlements, otherwise they could face sanctions. (Photo above: illustration).
Migrants equipped with smartphones started to arrive at a field next to a camp of Diavata near the border with Northern Macedonia on April 4.
By April 5 morning there were more than 100 tents pitched in the field, presumably provoked by spread via social media information of plans for an organized movement to cross Greece’s northwest land border with Albania in early April. There were children seen among migrants, who showed up next to the border.
In Athens, a group of some dozens of migrants squatted on the tracks of the capital’s main railway station shouting “Germany!” and “Open the borders.” Several more were at the station under heavy police presence.
Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas appealed to the migrants at the border to return to the accommodation centers.
“It’s a lie that the borders will open,” he told Greek state television ERT. “In international treaties, there are obligations but there are also sanctions”.
Mr.Vitsas expressed hope that those who came to the border upon their own initiative would leave by night, without any risking further escalation.
Social media has already reported clashes between marching migrants and Greece police.
Greece decided to eject Russian diplomats under the pressure from the European Union and the US in order to favor its partners ahead of the NATO summit, said Igor Pshenichnikov, expert for the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, TASS agency reports.
“It is clear that Greece’s authorities made the decision to expel Russian diplomatic staff members under the pressure of their advisers from Brussels and Washington. This is a gift that Alexis Tsipras made for the NATO summit,” he said, answering the question on why it was done now, as the country had not expelled Russian diplomats following the Skripal poisoning case. “Any excuse can be found, and it is not worth talking about. May it weigh on the conscience of Greece’s current authorities.”
“Of course, it is being done for a reason. Bad relations with Russia are a condition for Tsipras’ good relations with Washington and Brussels. This is obvious,” the expert said.
The Western countries do not quite like benevolent relations between Athens and Moscow both at the official level and between ordinary citizens, Pshenichnikov continued. “All of this definitely irritates both Brussels and Washington. We know that the Americans are constantly instructing the Greeks, so to say, to scale back Russian-Greek cooperation both at the official level and at the level of public diplomacy and creating obstacles all the time,” the expert concluded.
In line with the Alliance Open Door Policy under Article 10 of the Washington Treaty NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the invitation to Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to start accession negotiations. However Stoltenberg made it clear that the talks can start only when the name issue is settled, “you can’t have it both”, he underlined. The Alliance is ready to start negotiations with Republic of “North Macedonia” (“Severna Macedonia”) as soon as the legal procedure of renaming is concluded.
Stoltenberg added that NATO is fully committed to integration of the countries, aspiring to join the Alliance, judging each on its merits. “NATO door is open to all European democracies, which share the values of Alliance, and which are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership” the Secretary General confirmed.
Macedonia’s president Gjorge Ivanov (pictured) said that he would not sign off on a historic deal that would change the country’s name, the most potentially disruptive reaction so far to the agreement with Greece that has received diverging reactions in both countries.
President Gjorge Ivanov said the agreement, which would rename Macedonia as the Republic of North Macedonia, or Severna Macedonia, gave too many concessions to Greece: “Such a harmful agreement, which is unique in the history of mankind, is shameful and unacceptable for me,” Ivanov said in a TV address. “It violates the Constitution (and) the laws … I will not legalize political illegal agreements.”
If the president refuses to sign, the deal would return to parliament for another vote. Ivanov would have to sign off on the agreement if it is passed a second time.
The deal reached by the prime ministers of the two countries is expected to be signed by their foreign ministers this weekend.
The EU “wholeheartedly” congratulated Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras of Greece and Zoran Zaev (pictured) of FYROM (Republic of Macedonia) for their determination and leadership in reaching a “historic agreement” between their countries, which to the EU opinion will contribute to the transformation of the entire region of South-East Europe.
“This achievement belongs to the leaders of the two countries and their teams, but first and foremost it belongs to all the citizens of both countries, and of Europe as a whole” – the European External Action Service issued on occasion said.
The negotiating process, under the auspices of the United Nations and the mediation of the personal envoy of the UNSG, Matthew Nimetz, and with the European Union’s strong support, is also clear proof of the power of multilateral diplomacy, dialogue, respect and willingness to find win-win solutions to even the most difficult of issues. Together, we must now make good use of the window of opportunity that has been pushed wide open to accompany and consolidate the winds of peace and cooperation in the entire region.
The endorsement of the recommendation of 17 April to open accession negotiations with Severna Makedonija (Severna Macedonia/Northern Macedonia) in awaited at June Council.