Rom / Wien, 28. May 2003 Press release

Austria's Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner in Rome: Meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini

28.05.2003

Rome/Vienna, 28 May 2003 - On the occasion of her visit to Italy, Austrian Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner met with her counterpart Franco Frattini. Over the past few years Austria has intensified the political dialogue with Rome; and important top-level encounters between the presidents, the heads of government and the foreign ministers of the two states have shown that "intensifying relationships" is viewed as a matter of crucial importance on both sides.

The talks between the two ministers focussed on a number of bilateral and international issues. On the issue of autonomy for the South Tyrol, Ferrero-Waldner stressed that this continues to be "an important political concern for Austria. The South Tyrol is a successful case model that requires continued support and fostering in a spirit of continuity and in the interest of the populations involved", Ferrero-Waldner said.

On the transit issue, Ferrero-Waldner stressed that Austria expects that "the common position defined by the Council of Transport Ministers on 28 March 2003 will not be rejected by the European Parliament, as this regulation is of far too crucial importance for Europe as a whole."

Turning to the issue of the Brenner base tunnel, Ferrero-Waldner declared that Austria agreed with Italy with respect to the importance of this project. "We hope that the project will be completed in the years 2012/13. In Brussels we will be taking the same position as Italy with regard to the financing of this project."

On the topic of the forthcoming Italian EU Presidency, Ferrero-Waldner emphasised that she had great confidence in "Italy's long and rich experience with EU Presidencies." Italy, the Austrian Foreign Minister said, "has shown more than once that it is able to conduct the EU Presidency successfully." According to Ferrero-Waldner, Austria and Italy are quite "close" in their positions on basic issues in the current debate on the future of Europe. Both countries, she said, "see a strengthening of the community method as a cornerstone of the reform process."

Work on the Draft Constitution Treaty for Europe is being actively promoted within the European Union, and the ratification of the new Constitution Treaty in Rome would "be a historic gesture fully supported by Austria;" Ferrero-Waldner stated.

Moreover, Ferrero-Waldner pointed out that Austria also expects Italy to contribute to the further stabilisation in South-Eastern Europe during the term of its Presidency. "This region is a key-interest area in the foreign policies of both Austria and Italy. We therefore want to join forces in contributing to the stabilisation of this region," Ferrero-Waldner stated.

On the topic of transatlantic relationships, currently overshadowed by the Iraq crisis, Ferrero-Waldner and her Italian counterpart agreed that "our aim must be to emphasise common goals and seek what unites us, rather than what divides us."