European Western Balkans

Foreign Ministers of Austria, Czechia and Slovenia visit Skopje and Tirana, support EU accession talks

Ministers Schallenberg, Osmani, Kulhánek and Logar in Skopje; Photo: MFA North Macedonia

SKOPJE / TIRANA – Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Austria Alexander Schallenberg, Slovenia Anže Logar and the Czech Republic Jakub Kulhánek visited North Macedonia and Albania over the weekend, stressing that there should be no further delays in the countries’ accession processes.

The foreign ministers visited the countries as representatives of the informal group of EU member states “C5”, which, in addition to Austria, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, also includes Slovakia and Hungary, whose representatives have already visited the country, META reported.

The meeting with the Foreign Minister of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani focused on the dispute with Bulgaria, which is currently blocking the country’s EU accession process.

“In this conditionally asymmetric dispute we are facing, we need friends to provide us with a fair platform, to provide us with a fair political space so that we can remove the obstacles to the continuation of our European integration through dialogue”, Osmani said.

He highlighted the importance of the visit 30 days in advance to the meetings on European level, which, he said, should implement the decision of the Council from March 2020, which formally opened accession talks with Skopje and Tirana.

Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg said he supported Portugal’s proposal to unblock North Macedonia’s European integration.

He said he believed bilateral issues should not block the accession process, but that “we must deal with the issues and therefore fully support the efforts of the Portuguese presidency, together with the ministers here and in Sofia.”

“This is a crucial time now, a crucial moment. Please understand that I do not want to go into details, this is an ongoing process but I really support everything that the Portuguese presidency has put on the table as a proposal,” Schallenberg said.

The Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva and the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi visited Bulgaria and North Macedonia on Friday, presenting a draft solution aimed at overcoming the problem between the two countries, though no details of the proposal have been released thus far.

The foreign ministers next traveled to Tirana where, in a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Olta Xhaçka, they also confirmed their support to the country, Albanian Daily News reports.

“When the six countries of the Western Balkans become members we will have achieved the vision of the continent. Albania has done its homework and is ready to open talks. Laws and regulations must be enforced. This is a process that needs to start and we need to be honest about it. We stand by you today and in the future,” Schallenberg said.

On the other hand, the Slovenian Minister said that Albania had fulfilled its task, now it was the EU that must stand by its words.

“The next presidency is that of Slovenia where enlargement and the WB issue will be at the top of the agenda, so Albania will have an active interlocutor. Very active interlocutor and supporter of the enlargement process”, he said.

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