Schallenberg: EU accession negotiations are like the Tour de France – a long, winding and hard road ahead

The EU accession negotiations are like the Tour de France – a long, winding and hard road ahead, said Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg on Monday.

“I can compare this process to the Tour de France. It is not important who is on the starting grid, there are many stages and a long road ahead, but I believe there should be no discrimination regarding the starters,” said FM Schallenberg.

The Austrian Foreign Minister said the timing of the visit was no coincidence, adding it was a signal of support and solidarity with North Macedonia.

“Next week will be crucial, when the EU must make a decision over the future accession of North Macedonia and Albania, and I can assure you that Austria has a clear position on this. We believe that your country deserves to take the next step. Skopje has delivered and now is Brussels’ turn,” said Schallenberg.

He added that all member-states will not have the same opinion next week, voicing optimism that Brussels would give the green light for the accession negotiations.

North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Dimitrov said today’s meeting focused on the coming European Council summit.

“We solved difficult issues in a period when Europe and the world do not produce many solutions to the problems, especially the big ones. There is a democratic turnaround, including the unfortunate mistakes along the way, but the Macedonian society is more mature and more democratic than three years ago. This is a fact, we are making progress in the fields of media freedom, judiciary independence, fight against corruption, intelligence reforms. All in all, we have deserved to take the next step, which marks the start, not the end of our European journey,” said Dimitrov.

Ministers agreed that bilateral relations are excellent, trade exchange is on the rise, and Austria is the number one investor in North Macedonia. In this regard, Schallenberg said Austrian companies are interested in further investments.

Schallenberg thanked North Macedonia for its cooperation in the management of the migration processes and said Austria would continue to provide support in this regard, considering there has been a certain increase in the number of migrants as of late.