Skopje, 8 November 2011 – At the beginning of his five-day tour of the Western Balkans, State Secretary Wolfgang Waldner arrived yesterday in the Macedonian capital Skopje for bilateral talks with President Gjorge Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Pesevski, Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki and Minister of Culture Elizabeta Kanceska-Milevska. The talks started yesterday and have been continued today.The meetings focused on the EU perspective of the Balkan state, which has been independent for twenty years. “Austria will continue to support Macedonia in its process of accession to the EU. In the past years the country has undergone impressive political and economic changes. It is now imperative to use the positive momentum provided by the European Commission’s Progress Report and undertake further reforms,” said Waldner.During the talks the Macedonian government members repeatedly expressed their concern that the dispute with Greece over the use of the name Macedonia might not be settled in good time before the talks on accession to the European Union start. State Secretary Wolfgang Waldner emphasised that this issue could only be resolved in a bilateral dialogue between Macedonia and Greece. “As demanded by the European Commission, it is extremely important that the dialogue is started, even though – as with Kosovo and Serbia - I do not consider it realistic to expect the dialogue to achieve a breakthrough prior to the start of accession negotiations,” stated Waldner. “Macedonia has met the political requirements for the start of accession negotiations for many years now,” continued Waldner. “In the light of the positive developments in the region – Croatia successfully completed its negotiations in the summer while Serbia, too, hopes to be granted candidate status – Macedonia should not fall behind because of unresolved bilateral issues. The name issue is an important matter for all those concerned and it should be respected, but it should no longer present an obstacle to the start of accession negotiations,” affirmed Waldner.During his stay in the Macedonian capital Waldner also met with representatives of the Jewish community and visited the newly established Holocaust memorial. The State Secretary also talked to representatives of Austrian firms who are active in Macedonia and enquired about the country’s investment climate. As he pointed out, Austrian investments in Macedonia resulted in a win-win situation as they created and safeguarded jobs in both countries.“In my talks it has become clear that the political leaders as well as civil society and business are fully committed to the country’s European perspective. We shall continue to support Macedonia on its path to the EU,” concluded Waldner.
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