Regardless of an overwhelming support amongst EU countries for the start of negotiations with our country, several Western European countries – most notably France and the Netherlands – are still reluctant to back this process, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has said after a working breakfast with Nikola Dimitrov and Bujar Osmani.

Speaking to MIA on Monday, he said that Paris and the Hague were still reluctant to support the launch of negotiations, saying the Western European ‘friends’ were not as sensitive because they were detached from the region.

Eastern European countries, as well as Italy and Ireland, have extended staunch support, it was reported.

Hungary, Szijjártó said, believes that a decision must be reached in June over EU negotiations with Macedonia and the country has already sent its own seasoned diplomat to work for the country’s foreign affairs ministry.

After arriving in February, he is there to offer his assistance regarding the integration process and whatever North Macedonia needs in order to accelerate the process. We are always here to help, the Hungarian Minister told MIA.

He said he regretted the fact that the European Commission this year would release its progress reports later than usual. They are expected to be released in late May after the European Parliament elections.

But, the Netherlands remains more reserved.

The country’s Foreign Minister Stef Blok, after attending the working breakfast, said that the Netherlands was focused on Macedonia delivering reform-oriented results.

It’s important that North Macedonia continues to show progress. The Netherlands is strict and just when it comes to changes of (accession) conditions. We think it is of utmost importance for North Macedonia to show tangible results, especially considering the fight against corruption and organized crime. We give the country credit for solving the name dispute, but it doesn’t make the efforts to improve other areas any less important, Blok told MIA.

In addition to reform adoption, the member countries want to see reforms being implemented, Didier Reynders has said.

It will matter to us to see the European Commission report and check first-hand that progress is being made. The name dispute was one of the preconditions and it was exceptionally fulfilled. Now, we want to see reform implementation. We realize that the implementation process is always the most complicated part, the Belgian Foreign Minister told MIA.

Belgium, he noted, considers it very important that every country is valued according to its own merits and that there are no ‘packages’ of countries being admitted.

Still, Belgium is not as skeptical as France and the Netherlands as it advocates for the doors, both in NATO and the EU, to remain open.

Hopefully, in the coming months, we will be able to open an accession process, which is a long one. Even is negotiations are opened, the procedure is very long, chapter by chapter many EU demands have to be met. Nevertheless, we are glad we’ve seen this determination to solve the name issue, which resulted in NATO doors being opened. Now, we are prepared to open them in the EU if the criteria are met, stated Reynders.