EU Commission chief urges FYROM to resolve name dispute

Juncker kicks off Balkan tour with visit to Macedonia Albania

Juncker kicks off Balkan tour with visit to Macedonia Albania

After FYROM, Juncker is to continue his tour with visits to Albania, Serbia, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Macedonia and EU-member Greece are engaged in UN-mediated talks to resolve a 27-year-old dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav republic.

Mr Juncker praised Macedonia for the "pace of reforms" needed to join the European Union and for concluding a friendship treaty with neighbouring Bulgaria.

Greece argues that Macedonia's use of it when it gained independence in 1991 implies territorial claims to its Macedonia province.

Further, he called on Macedonian authorities to solve the name issue with Greece while he praised the progress made in the process.

In a post on Twitter, EC spokesman Margaritis Schinas said noted that Juncker's arrival came after FYROM officials had renamed Skopje's airport and a key thoroughfare, removing the reference to Alexander the Great, in a sign of good will. "I do not intend to lecture those involved".

The Macedonian government earlier this month chose to rename the airport and the country's main highway, which was also previously named after Alexander the Great.

Mr Juncker said he was "enchanted (to find) that something has changed at the airport".

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev reaffirmed that he is willing to accept a "geographical qualifier" in Macedonia's name to reach a compromise, but insisted the new name must "respect the dignity" of people in both countries.

To satisfy Greece, the United Nations and other worldwide institutions officially recognise Macedonia as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Mr Juncker was due to meet Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov later Sunday before flying to Albania.