Belgian Foreign Minister Met Austria's Foreign Minister Schallenberg

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: September 28, 2022; 23:40 ♦ (Vindobona)

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib met with Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg for working talks in Vienna. The subsequent discussions focused on bilateral relations between Austria and Belgium, the EU enlargement process and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Hadja Lahbib is a Belgian journalist, TV presenter, director and political figure, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium since July 15, 2022. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons, RemyEsquilicheEsquinas, CC BY-SA 4.0

At the outset, Foreign Minister Schallenberg congratulated his counterpart on her appointment in July 2022.

Austria's Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed that Russia's invasion of Ukraine brought to the fore once again a special geopolitical significance of the EU enlargement process." To prevent Russia from destabilizing the region, the European Union must offer the countries of the Western Balkans a credible prospect of accession, according to Schallenberg. Schallenberg and Lahbib say concrete progress is urgently needed by the end of 2022. For example, granting EU candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina and visa liberalization for Kosovo are long overdue, according to Schallenberg.

In the conversation, Foreign Minister Schallenberg emphasized the excellent relationship between Austria and Belgium and suggested increased cooperation in the field of asylum and migration. Both countries would face similar challenges in this regard. About the state of EU enlargement in the Western Balkan states, Foreign Minister Schallenberg underlined the need to achieve visible progress this year.

In addition, the Foreign Minister suggested continuing the discussion on the model of gradual integration of EU candidate countries proposed by Austria. Given the changed geopolitical framework conditions, the enlargement process had to be relaunched and not remain stuck in familiar templates, he said.

In his exchange with Foreign Minister Lahbib, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also addressed the speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 21, 2022. The two foreign ministers condemned the unprecedentedly explicit nuclear threats, which make a diplomatic solution increasingly remote.

The foreign ministers also underlined that Austria and Belgium strongly condemned the holding of illegal sham referendums to justify Russia's annexation of Ukrainian territories. The sham referendums lack any legitimacy under international law and, like the annexation of Ukrainian territories, will not be recognized by Austria.

BMEIA Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs