Vienna, 30 September 2003 - "In our talks today and yesterday we discussed Austro-French relations, the EU and the Middle East in very great depth," said Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner today after a working meeting with her French counterpart Dominique de Villepin in Vienna.
"The mutual good relations between Austria and France are also evidenced by the stepping up of the planned round of bilateral visits," stated Ferrero-Waldner. Official visits to Paris by the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Education, Science and Culture, the Speaker of the Austrian Parliament and the Federal President are planned, and preparations are also underway for a visit to Austria by Prime Minister Raffarin. Agreement was also reached on the further intensification of cultural and economic relations between the two countries. Austria intends to apply for observer status in the International Francophonie Organization. "By doing so we can join with other member states to create a cultural, scientific and political network based on the values of this organisation", Ferrero-Waldner said.
"It goes without saying that we also talked about the EU Intergovernmental Conference which begins this coming Saturday in Rome. The Conference will be discussing the Draft EU Constitution, a document which will certainly represent a milestone in the history of European integration," continued the Foreign Minister. "Austria and France have different opinions on several points. However, we both agree that these issues should be tackled in a constructive frame of mind. The main points on which Austria will submit proposals for changes are the question of the composition of the European Commission and the role of the future elected President of the Council. We also have some ambitious ideas regarding the Common Foreign and Security Policy as well as suggestions for improvements in the European Security and Defence Policy," Ferrero-Waldner explained.
With regard to the developments in the Balkans, Ferrero-Waldner expressed her opinion that the process of stabilisation in Serbia and Montenegro was proceeding in the right direction, adding that the EU ought to send a signal to Croatia as soon as possible regarding the possible timing of her accession to the European Union. During their talks the two Foreign Ministers also discussed the accession candidates Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as Turkey and the Ukraine as new neighbours of the EU.
"In terms of the Common EU Security and Defence Policy I have to say that Austria and France share the same opinion on very many points," Ferrero-Waldner said. "Active cooperation in the Common Security and Defence Policy in a spirit of solidarity is a priority of Austria's own security and defence policy," the Foreign Minister went on.
"Our meeting here in Vienna also gave us the opportunity to continue our discussions on the situation in Iraq. France and Austria have adopted similar positions on this issue, agreeing that our prime aim must be to hold out the prospect of an end to the occupation and the achievement of full sovereignty to the Iraqi people. In order to achieve this goal there is no alternative to a key role for the United Nations, clearly defined in terms of scope and timing. Austria is thus also hoping for a swift conclusion of the negotiations on a new Security Council resolution," said Ferrero-Waldner.
"We also talked about Iran and the further development of relations between Iran and the EU. The final conclusions adopted today by the Council of EU Foreign Ministers set forth quite clearly which developments the EU views with concern and what the EU expects of Iran. Austria and France fully support these demands. Before anything else happens, Iran must fulfil her obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and fully implement the IAEO Governing Board's Resolution of 12 September," stated the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
"Austria and France share an identical opinion on most issues concerning the Middle East. At any rate we are both of the view that there is no alternative to the "Road Map" and that a new initiative should be launched within this framework," Ferrero-Waldner concluded.