Ferrero-Waldner: "European perspective for the Western Balkans is the basis for stability and peace"
Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner visits the Macedonian capital of Skopje
Skopje, 21 June 2004 - During her official visit to Macedonia, Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner held meetings with her Macedonian counterpart Ilinka Mitreva, Prime Minister Hari Kostov and the President of the Republic of Macedonia, Branko Crvenkovski. The talks focussed on Macedonia's efforts towards early accession to the EU, the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and the security situation in the Balkans.
Ferrero-Waldner welcomed Macedonia's application for EU membership and assured her Macedonian counterpart of Austria's full support on the country's road towards the European Union: "South Eastern Europe is one of the priority regions of Austrian foreign policy. That is why within the EU we have always spoken out in favour of giving the countries of the Western Balkans a European perspective, since this is the basis for long-term stability and peace in the Balkans," said the Foreign Minister.
Ferrero-Waldner also expressed her pleasure at the great commitment shown by Macedonia in implementing the Ohrid Framework Agreement, despite some difficulties: "This Agreement represents a very promising basis for peaceful cohabitation between the different ethnic groups. I am confident that the Agreement will be a success story and that it will come to serve as a model example for the other Balkan countries. During my visit it was therefore important to me to gain a personal impression of its practical implementation from those involved and affected on the spot, and to find out whether the Ohrid Framework Agreement or some of its elements might offer a suitable approach for Kosovo," she explained. Some observers view the Ohrid Framework Agreement as a possible approach to a solution for the Kosovo issue. In this context the Foreign Minister also highlighted the work of the OSCE Mission to Skopje, which is making a valuable contribution to the implementation of the Agreement.
Austria's good bilateral relations with Macedonia are further reflected in the fields of development cooperation and culture. "I am delighted that thanks to the Austrian development cooperation programme, which has invested more than 8.7 million Euro in Macedonia since 1996, it has been possible to carry out important infrastructural projects such as the construction of a wastewater treatment plant. In the cultural sphere we are represented in Macedonia by an Austria Library, and numerous other cultural projects are also under way with the aim of promoting the dialogue between cultures", concluded the Foreign Minister.