Salzburg, 31 July 2003 - Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs Ferrero-Waldner and Stability Pact Special Coordinator Erhard Busek participated in the consultations held within the framework of the two-day meeting of heads of government from South-East European countries on the subject of "Stability in South-East Europe in the 21st Century". Ferrero-Waldner joined the six Prime Ministers from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who were staying in Salzburg at the invitation of Federal Chancellor Schüssel, for discussions on the economic and political prospects of the Balkan region, amongst other topics.
"I hope and trust that the process of European integration is not only helping the countries of South-East Europe to heal the wounds of the past, but also to breathe new life into the political and economic relations between them, thus paving the way for closer cooperation", stated the Foreign Minister. "The Stability Pact under the leadership of Erhard Busek has already made a trailblazing contribution to this process by creating a network of free trade agreements as well as structures for cooperation in the energy sector."
At the same time, however, in the case of South-East Europe the process of European integration was not a simple one, and the different stages of development in the relations between the individual states of the region and the European Union would have to be taken into account. "A concrete proposal on my part would be to seize the opportunity for cooperation between the countries of the region and states such as Austria, Slovenia and Hungary within the framework of Euroatlantic Partnership Council structures", said Ferrero-Waldner, adding that the goal of such a cooperation must be to make the South-East European region a "producer" of stability. In the longer term, further interesting potential for regional cooperation could also be found within the framework of the European Union's future Common Security and Defence Policy.
In this context, Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner said she was especially interested in the lessons South-East Europe could learn from the experiences gained by the Central and Eastern European states during their process of accession to the EU, as well as in the opportunities that might exist for trilateral cooperation between the current EU member states, the Central and Eastern European states and the countries of South-East Europe. Concluding, Ferrero-Waldner expressed her particular pleasure at the fact that an expert-level dialogue had already been initiated in May this year within the framework of a conference organized jointly by the Stability Pact and the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, with the aim of exploring opportunities for cooperation between the states of Western, Central and South-East Europe.