Schallenberg: North Macedonia risks isolation

Skopje (MIA) – If North Macedonia does not accept the constitutional amendments and does not continue on a European path, it runs the risk of being isolated, Austrian Minister for European and International Affairs Alexander Schallenberg said. He took part in a joint press conference in Skopje with North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani and the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Jan Lipavský and Miroslav Wlachovský.

“Once negotiations begin, that’s an irreversible process. The country has been waiting 18 years to reach this moment. Now it is up to you to use it. It is necessary to be politically responsible and place the national interests above all else. Now is the moment and I assure you that we are not meddling in the internal affairs of the country,” said Schallenberg. 

Schallenberg stressed that a visit of three ministers from three EU member states to a Western Balkan country is not something that happens every day, which, he said, “should be a strong message for you.”

“Our message is simple and strong – it is a message of encouragement, there is no time to waste, we would like you to continue with the necessary constitutional amendments, so you can begin membership negotiations. Postponing the adoption of the amendments means a postponement of North Macedonia’s accession. It would be a shame if Skopje, after running such a difficulty marathon, were to trip up at the next obstacle. We’ve been through a lot together, and we overcame many difficulties,” said Schallenberg.

Morocco wants “added value” to its fisheries pact with the EU – Polisario Front warns against “illegal agreements”

Rabat / Strasbourg (EFE) – The Moroccan government has reiterated its desire for a partnership with the EU with “more added value” to its fisheries pact, while the Polisario Front told the media in Strasbourg that it feared Spain would push for new “illegal agreements” between Brussels and Rabat. The Polisario Front is a North African politico-military organisation that seeks to end Moroccan control of the former Spanish territory of Western Sahara and win independence for the region.

“Morocco considers the model of coming to fish to be outdated,” Moroccan Foreign Minister Naser Burita said in Rabat. The EU-Morocco fisheries protocol, which allows European vessels to fish in Moroccan and Western Saharan waters, expires on 17 July with no prospect of renewal. This means that European vessels will have to leave the area’s fishing grounds. The EU General Court had annulled the agreement in September of 2021 on the grounds that it also covered the waters of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara and therefore had to take the representation of the Saharawi people into account, a decision that the European side has appealed against. The expected ruling by the EU Court of Justice could uphold or overturn the EU General Court’s decision from 2021.

The suspension of the fisheries agreement means that activity in Moroccan fishing grounds will be paralysed for an indefinite period. The Spanish government plans to provide aid to support vessels and ensure that shipowners and fishermen are not affected by the suspension. Spain has 93 licences to fish in Morocco, but only 19 are currently active. (12 July)

European Parliament criticises Austrian veto on Schengen accession

Strasbourg (APA) – The European Parliament has criticised Austria’s veto on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the border control-free Schengen area. In a legally non-binding resolution adopted on Wednesday, MEPs said the arguments used by Austria for its rejection did not relate to the “conditions laid down” for the two countries’ accession. The Austrian government cited the high number of asylum applications as the reason for the veto.

But the European border agency Frontex had determined “that Romania and Bulgaria do not represent a migration route to the rest of the Schengen area, based on statistical data,” the resolution says. However, the exclusion of the two countries from the Schengen area is a “major social and economic burden,” it continues. Among other things, it causes “excessive bureaucracy and additional costs at border crossings,” traffic jams lasting hours or even days and environmental damage. For example, 46,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released annually due to border congestion.

The resolution also points out that Bulgaria and Romania “fulfil the necessary criteria, duly comply with the Schengen obligations and are already making a positive contribution to the Schengen area.” The rejection of the two countries by member states last December had occurred “without legal justification in relation to the accession criteria,” the text criticises. The European Commission should therefore investigate whether the EU treaty has been violated.

In addition to Austria, the Netherlands had also blocked Bulgaria’s accession. However, the Netherlands were not explicitly mentioned in the resolution. The European Parliament is calling for an agreement on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania by the end of 2023.

For Austrian MEP Claudia Gamon, the resolution sends a message to the Austrian government. The European Parliament wants to prevent an “abuse of the right of veto,” Gamon told a press conference. “The discussion is by no means over,” the liberal MEP stressed.

“In view of open borders and a rampant welcoming policy, one can only shake one’s head in disbelief at such demands,” said Austrian MEP Harald Vilimsky from the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ). “As long as the EU’s external borders are so open, we must insist on controlling the internal border,” Vilimsky stressed. (12 July)

European motorways to have electric car charging points every 60 kilometres

Strasbourg (Belga) – Charging points for electric vehicles are to be installed at least every 60 kilometres along Europe’s major motorways from 2026. Two years later, this should apply to half of the European road network. The European Parliament made the final decision on Tuesday.

“In the future, you should be able to charge your electric car anywhere in the European Union. That is what we are ensuring with these new rules,” said Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt. She had co-sponsored the political agreement on new rules for an alternative fuel infrastructure reached with EU member states in March.

The charging stations, which will be found every 60 kilometres from 2026, will have to have a capacity of at least 400 kilowatts (kW), and from 2028 they will have to be able to generate at least 600 kW. For trucks, there will be a charging station every 60 km from 2031. By then, hydrogen refuelling stations should also be located every 200 km along major motorways.

Van Brempt said the new legislation, which had been approved by 514 votes in favour, 52 against and 74 abstentions, would help remove existing barriers to the mass switch to electric mobility. These include the lack of charging infrastructure and the relatively high price of electric cars. Van Brempt therefore wants the industry to look for “solutions to bring more affordable and smaller electric cars to the market.”

The European Parliament and Member States have already decided that the accessibility of charging stations must be improved. “The mixture of charging cards and subscription formulas must stop. In the future, you should always be able to pay with your bank card at public charging stations. These charging stations must also be accessible to all types of cars,” says Van Brempt.

The EU also expects transparency in the price of the electricity supplied. The European Commission will be asked to set up a database to inform consumers about alternative fuels, including availability, waiting times and prices at different stations. (11 July)

Erdoğan and Michel agree to ‘reinvigorate’ Turkey-EU relations

Vilnius (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and European Council President Charles Michel have agreed to reinvigorate Turkey-EU relations, the latter said after their meeting in Vilnius on the sidelines of a NATO summit on Monday.

“Good meeting with President Erdoğan at the NATO summit,” Charles Michel tweeted. We “explored opportunities ahead to bring cooperation back to the forefront and re-energise our relations,” he added.

A few hours earlier, the Turkish leader had linked his support for Sweden’s application to join NATO – which he eventually backed – to his country’s negotiations to join the EU, which have been stalling for several years.

For its part, the US State Department had said on Monday that Turkey should not link Sweden’s NATO membership to its rapprochement with the European Union. (10 July)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.