Budapest, 24. April 2003 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner met Hungarian Foreign Minister Kovács in Budapest

24.04.2003

European integration, regional cooperation and bilateral relations topped the meeting's agenda

Budapest, 24 April 2003 - "I am thoroughly delighted about the outcome of the referendum on Hungary's accession to the EU and would like to congratulate the Hungarian population once again for their clear vote in favour of their country's accession to the EU, which was a very impressive demonstration of their support for the European peace project", Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said today, following a working discussion with her Hungarian counterpart Lászlo Kovács in Budapest.

With respect to issues relating to the EU Convention and the future of Europe, Ferrero-Waldner and Kovács adopted very similar positions. "This was clearly illustrated again only recently when both Austria and Hungary signed a proposal on issues relating to institutional reforms of the EU," the Foreign Minster stressed.

The ministers' discussions also focused on various regional cooperation mechanisms in which the two Central-European neighbours participate, such as the Regional Partnership, the Danube Cooperation Process, the Commission for the Protection of the River Danube and the EU's Stability Pact for South-East Europe.

With respect to the Regional Partnership, which was founded by Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Poland in Vienna in 2001, the Austrian Foreign Minister stated that she was convinced that only alliances formed among Member States will be able to make their voice heard within the enlarged EU. "The formation of alliances will become general practice for a large number of issues. For this reason, the Regional Partnership has the opportunity to become one of the most active and stable regional groups with the EU." The next Regional Partnership meeting will be held in the Czech Republic and is scheduled for 4 and 5 July 2003.

The ministers also discussed the Danube Cooperation Process, which was initiated by Romania and Austria, the European Commission and the Stability Pact, and was launched by thirteen states in Vienna last year. Its aim is to revive cooperation mechanisms and networks in the region following the end of the Cold War and the destruction caused by the crisis in Yugoslavia. With a view to the increasingly important role played by the Danube as a waterway, Ferrero-Waldner and Kovács discussed closer cooperation within the framework of the Commission for the Protection of the River Danube. In this connection the Foreign Minister also stated Austria's interest in launching a joint strategy together with Hungary and other Regional Partnership countries with respect to specific initiatives under the Stability Pact.

Ferrero-Waldner also addressed the close bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries, pointing out that Austria is Hungary's second most important trading partner and the fourth largest investor in Hungary. Under the Security Partnership, cooperation between the interior ministers of the Regional Partnership countries is well underway, supported by the mutual dispatch of experts and the setting up of joint working groups. In addition, the regular consular deliberations between the two foreign ministries have developed into a very valuable discussion forum. The cultural relations between Austria and Hungary are excellent and find their expression in the large number of cultural projects organised in both countries. Austria maintains a cultural forum in Budapest and an Austria Library each in Pécs, Szeged, Szombathely and Debrecen.