The Portuguese government said that it “welcomes” the enlargement of the European Union (EU) to include Northern Macedonia and Albania in the Western Balkans, but noted that there is still “homework” to be done on both sides.

“We are talking about the beginning of the process, we cannot demand everything at the outset. That’s what the accession process is all about, building institutions and preparing for entry, but there’s homework to be done,” Ana Paula Zacarias, the secretary of state for European affairs, told Lusa.

She added that Portugal sees this enlargement of the Union as “a good thing”.

“We are pleased with this, we have always been in favour, but the rules must be complied with and the reforms must be carried out”, she insisted.

It is essential that [these countries] meet the criteria and do not have cross-border disputes with their neighbours, so as not to bring these conflicts into the EU.

“The more reforms that need to be made - whether economic or political - the more democratic they are, the better the countries’ preparation for regional cooperation”, she said.

At the informal meeting of EU heads of diplomacy, the issue of the Western Balkans was on the table, with those responsible for overseeing countries such as Northern Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Kosovo joining the occasion.

The EU’s request for these countries to make various changes in order to be able to join was well supported, particularly in diplomatic terms, as, for example, dialogue is “frozen” between Serbia and Kosovo.

“The EU’s role as a mediator and aggregator is very important,” she told Lusa.

Meanwhile, as politics in the UK becomes increasingly confused, the Secretary of State for Portuguese Communities has assured that Portuguese residents of the United Kingdom “can be at ease”, pointing out that he understands “the anxiety of the citizens” regarding ‘Brexit’, but “the Portuguese state is prepared”.

“The important message we want to convey is that people must remain calm. This is because the Portuguese State has prepared to deal with the contingency resulting from the decision of the British authorities and people.

“Only some days ago it was the British Prime Minister himself who contacted the Portuguese Prime Minister to give him a message of reassurance about the future of the Portuguese in the country,” said José Luís Carneiro.

In the case of unscheduled withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, applications for the Settlement Scheme forPortuguese citizens in the UK may be submitted until 31 December 2020, while in the case of withdrawal by agreement the application may be made until 30 June 2021.

José Luís Carneiro also stressed that the consulates of London and Manchester has seen human resources strengthened and opening hours extended.

He said that the Brexit line, which started operating on April 1, supported more than 30,000 Portuguese citizens in the United Kingdom who asked for clarification.

“We have indicators that show that we can be calm. Of the approximately 300,000 Portuguese residing in the United Kingdom, over 92,000 have already applied for UK resident status, the overwhelming majority have been granted permission. As for the minority, they have been notified to submit documents in question,” he said.

One of those within this minority is Ana Rocha, a resident of the United Kingdom, who took part in a Westminster rally against the five-week suspension of parliament announced by the Boris Johnson government, and interrupted a live report by Sky News to explain that she is “worried” about her future in a country she said “she gave her youth” to.

The health technician, who specialises in caring for people with disabilities and has been living in the UK for 20 years, told Lusa that she had been experiencing difficulties in obtaining resident status through a system of migratory regularisation opened by the British Home Office.

She told Lusa that she will have to restart the process started through the company she works for because of a mistake with a social security number, but resents the distrust with which she was treated.

“They told me they weren’t finding me in the system, like I’m lying,” she said.

Regarding the media exposure she has had, she does not regret using it to denounce abuses and injustices related to Brexit, namely felt by the Portuguese.

“Now I feel like talking. I’m sick of being quiet, going to work and being quiet, hearing insults on the bus and the underground, and everybody having these completely dysfunctional opinions about what immigrants do in this country”

The UK have also launched a new campaign to help British people understand what they need to do regarding the Brexit process.
The “Get Ready for Brexit” campaign has been launched in the UK with people being encouraged to visit to take a short questionnaire to find out what documentation may be needed once Brexit comes in to place.

There is an option on the site which refers to British citizens living and working in the EU, although the British government continues to be criticised for a lack of information for British nationals already residing in
the EU.