The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) expects membership talks with the European Union to start soon. So said the country’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

Even though FYROM won its candidacy status in 2005, accession talks remain blocked by Greece due to a dispute about the name of the former Yugoslav republic.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Zaev has stepped up efforts to resolve the dispute with Greece, which says the name “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim over its northern region which has the same name.

“We have a concrete goal ahead of us. We have never been closer to receiving a date to open membership talks with the EU,” Zaev said after meeting Donald Tusk, head of the European Council which groups the bloc’s 28 national governments.

“We are working to successfully solve the name issue. Solving this issue will open the doors to begin membership talks with the EU and to enter Nato.”

He said his administration would “double” its efforts to ensure that reforms are “more visible, concrete and efficient”.

But until the name issue is resolved, Greece is unlikely to give a green light to FYROM’s accession talks.

In a separate report, Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) online noted that Tusk has visited Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and FYROM – all former communist states and EU hopefuls.

Heads of state from all five countries, along with EU members Croatia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria, attended the summit meetings in Skopje on April 27.