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Visiting the Model Students of EU Integration in the Western Balkans: Foreign Minister Linhart Travels to Northern Macedonia and Albania

AUSTRIA, November 17 - Foreign Minister Michael Linhart will visit Northern Macedonia and Albania from 18 to 20 November 2021. Both states are candidate countries for membership of the EU, making them pioneers for EU expansion in the Western Balkans. The meetings with high-ranking representatives from both countries will focus on measures to prevent illegal migration along the Balkan route, the progress of EU accession negotiations, and economic issues.

Following his trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina in October, the visit to Northern Macedonia and Albania is the Foreign Minister’s second trip to the Western Balkans – thus Michael Linhart is further highlighting the region’s importance for Austria. On Thursday, 18 November 2021, Foreign Minister Michael Linhart will meet with President Stevo Pendarovski, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani in the Northern Macedonian capital of Skopje. In this meeting, Michael Linhart will also address the EU accession process, which he says needs to remain a top priority for the EU. Austria supports the initiative by EU High Representative Josep Borrell to deepen relations with the Western Balkan states parallel to the accession process, and expects to see perceptible progress for people in the area as a result.

In bringing the Western Balkan states closer to the EU, we must focus on issues that directly impact their citizens. Full participation of all Western Balkan states in EU programs, such as Erasmus, and further integration into the European research space would offer visible results for the people in the region,

demands Foreign Minister Linhart.

On the second day of his trip, Michael Linhart will visit Tirana, the capital of Albania. There, he will meet with Prime Minister Edi Rama, Foreign Minister Olta Xhaçka, and Zef Mazi, the Albanian chief negotiator with the EU. In addition to the country’s European prospects, Foreign Minister Linhart will also address the issue of illegal migration. Following a pandemic-related decline, the number of migrants trying to reach the EU via the Balkan route is once again increasing.

Austria’s highest priority is to continue expanding our collaboration with Albania in the area of migration. The migration chaos of 2015 cannot be repeated, and the only way to prevent it is if we work together,

says Foreign Minister Michael Linhart.

One highlight for the football-loving Foreign Minister will be the friendly match between the Albanian Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and a team made up of the Austrian delegation and the Austrian embassy in Tirana, led by Foreign Minister and key player Michael Linhart.

On Saturday 20 November, the last day of the trip, the Austrian delegation will visit the Ashta hydropower plant, which was opened by an association of the Austrian energy companies Verbund and EVN. A visit to the Austrian HTL (higher technical education institute) “Peter Mahringer” in Shkodra is also on the itinerary.

The Foreign Minister will once again be accompanied by a large Austrian business delegation. As part of the ReFocus Austria initiative for economic recovery amidst Covid-19, this will help to further develop the already very strong trade relations between Austria and the Western Balkan states.