Zagreb, 30 April 2003 - "I welcome and support Croatia's wish to become a member of the European Union. At the same time, Croatia's progress on the way to EU membership will decisively depend on the country's progress," Austria's Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner stated today after talks with the Croatian President Stipe Mesic. Croatia submitted its application for EU membership on 21 February 2003. In the meantime, the European Council charged the Commission to draw up its avis as a basis for the decision to launch membership negotiations with Croatia.
Apart from issues regarding the application for EU membership, Ferrero-Waldner and President Mesic also discussed Mesic's proposal of seeking a joint solution with Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as with Serbia and Montenegro to the problem of refugees. Ferrero-Waldner considers these efforts as an important contribution to the stabilisation of the entire region.
Within the context of her one-day visit, Ferrero-Waldner also met her Croatian counterpart Tonino Picula. The Regional Partnership, among other issues, formed a central topic of these talks. "Our aim is to intensify our cooperation with our neighbours who wish to join the European Union, among them Croatia, both in the pre-accession stage and, maybe even more important, once these countries have attained EU membership. This wish is motivated by common interests and certain ties of kinship among Central Europeans. According to Ferrero-Waldner, this partnership provides a forum that creates a flexible and still effective framework for such cooperation.
Furthermore, the two foreign ministers also dealt on the strategic interests of realising the railway and road tangent Prague-Linz-Graz-Maribor-Zagreb-South Eastern Europe. Both sides agreed that the necessary steps should be taken to convince the European Union and the countries of South and South Eastern Europe of the importance of this project.