The Portuguese Presidency of the European Union considers the enlargement process an important issue and will make every effort to intensify the dialogue for the harmonization of the negotiating framework and to formally start the accession negotiations between North Macedonia and the EU. North Macedonia’s accession to the European Union will help maintain the EU’s credibility throughout the region.
These were the messages Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov and Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani received in Brussels by Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva and the European Commission Vice-President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.
In their meetings with Silva, Dimitrov and Osmani unanimously stated that the process of European integration must receive increased attention, especially in the case of North Macedonia, which since March last year has had a consensus decision from all Member States to start negotiations. They reiterated the country’s commitment to the reform process, stressing that the country’s clear prospect of a future full-fledged EU membership is the strongest impetus for continuing the reform process and integrating European values within North Macedonia.
Silva gave an overview of the Portuguese Presidency’s priorities for a social, digital and green Europe, strengthening its citizens’ confidence in the European social model, promoting a Union based on common values, solidarity, transformation and cohesion; an EU capable of coordinated action to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
During the meeting between Osmani and Dimitrov and Josep Borrell, it was estimated that the start of negotiations for the accession of North Macedonia to the EU will help maintain the credibility of the EU throughout the region.
“The focus of the conversation was the future of EU enlargement policy, especially in the context of developments following the adoption of the new methodology and the opportunities it offers for intensifying the process, harmonizing the negotiating framework for North Macedonia, the importance and the benefits of regional cooperation and the promotion of good neighbourly relations as key elements for the European perspective, both for the country and for the whole region”, as was announced by the Press Office of the Government of North Macedonia.
“The meeting underlined the fact that North Macedonia has a large number of friends among the EU Member States, whose interests for the future of Europe coincide with ours for a full-fledged integration of the Western Balkans into the European bloc and for the “final integration of the Union”.
Dimitrov and Osmani stressed at the meeting that the government is continuing reforms in order to maintain the focus of the reform process and maintain the “positive record for North Macedonia”.
Borrell, for his part, welcomed the high level of alignment of North Macedonia with the EU’s common foreign and security policy during the talks.
“Dimitrov and Osmani’s meeting with Borrell comes at an extremely important time for the EU enlargement process, and in this regard the interlocutors agreed that the start of negotiations with North Macedonia will help maintain the credibility of the EU throughout the area”, the press office said.
Osmani and Dimitrov also met with EU Special Representative for the Western Balkans and the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, to discuss North Macedonia’s European perspective, good neighbourly relations, regional initiatives and expectations for the coming period. The meeting concluded that North Macedonia is ready to start negotiations with the European Union, emphasizing that the country is a successful European history in the region and, therefore, an example for other countries in the Western Balkans – which clearly shows the transformative power of the European idea.
“Therefore, the European perspective of North Macedonia must continue regardless of the challenges along this path. It will be a reaffirmation of keeping enlargement policy on the EU agenda, but also that a real investment in reforms and good neighbourly relations means a safe investment for a better future for the people”, he said after the meeting.
Meanwhile, Portuguese Foreign Minister Silva told the European Parliament that his country’s inspirations for the EU presidency in the field of enlargement were “quite ambitious”.
“We want to contribute to the approval of the negotiating framework with North Macedonia and Albania and to continue the ongoing negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro”, Santos Silva told the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Several MEPs have pointed out that the EU should not forget Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, as well as the obstacles and problems that Bulgaria poses to North Macedonia on its path to the EU, said Commission member Isabel Santos from Portugal.
Hungarian MEP Andor Deli pointed out the differences in the approach to the enlargement process between the Council and the European Parliament and asked the Portuguese Minister what he would do to speed up the implementation of the new negotiation methodology.
“No change has been made to this methodology”, Deli said, adding that “positive messages are needed to speed up the enlargement process”.
Austrian MEP Andreas Schieder asked how negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania would begin. Schieder also said he was interested in what would happen in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. “I think it is important for Europe to lead this dialogue”, he said.
Answering questions from MEPs, Santos Silva said that the issues between North Macedonia and Bulgaria should be resolved, as it “reflects the EU as a whole”, that they hope to make progress in the process, and that the decisions of the past year on the start of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania should be implemented./ibna