Croatian MEP Marijana Petir on Tuesday called for the forming or an informal group of "Friends of Macedonia" in the European Parliament which triggered a storm of reactions by Greek MEPs, EurActiv has reported.

Although Macedonia is recognised as the country's constitutional name by most EU countries, the name dispute with Greece has blocked the country's membership of both the EU and NATO.

The Informal Friendship group in the European Parliament – “Friends of Macedonia” was formed for the first time during the previous mandate of the European Parliament, 2009-2014. The group is composed of MEPs from various political groups who are supporters of the European integration path of the Balkan country. Its goal is to increase the country’s visibility within the European Parliament.

Marijana Petir of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) and a member of the European Peoples' Party (EPP) group took the initiative to revive the informal group, a move strongly opposed by her Greek colleagues in the EU Parliament.

Petir told EurActiv that the EU “must officially open accession negotiations with Macedonia” as the country was ready to do so.

“I strongly believe that this will occur soon," she stressed, adding that all the reports so far have indicated that Skopje is making continuous progress.

Referring to the name dispute with Athens, she noted that it should be solved “in parallel with the harmonisation of Macedonian legislation to the EU”.

“I invite MEP colleagues from Greece to join us in the constructive debate, which would contribute to Macedonian’s future in the EU," the Croatian MEP noted.

The vast majority of Greek MEPs reacted to Petir’s initiative and sent letters of complaint to the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. and EPP president Manfred Weber.

The centre-right New Democracy MEPs said that such moves, even with "the cloak of the informal", only created a false impression.

“Europe’s door will remain closed for Skopje, because it does not accept [EU’s] principles and values […] it continues to show a huge democratic deficit, and setbacks in the area of human rights protection,” the centre-right MEPs wrote in their letter.

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