The Western Balkans – A Priority of Austrian Foreign Policy
Due to centuries of political, cultural and economic interrelations, Austrian foreign policy has always attached particular importance to the Balkans. In terms of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union, “Western Balkans” covers the states of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania.
The prime goal of Austrian foreign policy is to support the transformation of the Western Balkans into a zone of stability. Austria has contributed decisively to the approach taken by the European Union (EU) aimed at supporting the democratically elected reform-oriented powers in the states of the Western Balkans.
From the Austrian point of view there is only one option for achieving long-term peace in the Balkans: involving the entire region in the process of European integration. Austria is of the opinion that the prospect of increasing integration into the so-called "European mainstream" represents the most effective incentive for the countries in question to speed up their respective processes of national reform. On the basis of their own progress on the road towards reform, the countries of the Western Balkans can thus themselves determine the pace of this increasing rapprochement to the EU, although they are still supported in their endeavours by the European Union.
For the countries of the Western Balkans the Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) currently represent the highest level of approximation to the EU. These Agreements are tailor-made to answer the specific needs of each individual country in the course of its process of political, economic and social reform, thus optimising both the individual reforms and the approximation efforts undertaken by the respective country. Such agreements have so far been signed with Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. Accession negotiations with Croatia were launched in October 2005. Macedonia was granted official candidate status the same year and Montenegro was recently awarded candidate status, at the end of 2010.