Prag, 25. November 2004 Press release

Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik arrives in Prague

25.11.2004

Meeting with Czech counterpart Svoboda and Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Zaorálek

Prague, 25 November 2004 – Foreign Minister Plassnik's visit to the Czech Republic today will centre on European and Neighbourhood policy.

"The dynamic relations between our countries have been further intensified by the Czech accession to the EU. What is especially important is that wherever the two neighbours deal with each other directly, the image of the other is becoming increasingly positive", said Plassnik on her arrival in Prague.

"Also positive is the fact that the agreements on frontier workers and trainees are now before the Austrian Parliament for approval. These will facilitate access to the Austrian labour market for Czech citizens", said the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Another topic for discussion during the meeting of the Foreign Minister with her counterpart Cyril Svoboda and the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Lubomír Zaorálek are questions of traffic and transport infrastructure; these play a central role for the further development of the excellent economic relations between the two countries.

The Austrian economy and the Czech economy are closely intertwined: the development of bilateral trade has been extremely dynamic in the past few years. The Czech Republic continues to be one of the most important markets for Austria. Among Austria's trading partners, the Czech Republic ranks eighth worldwide, and even fifth as regards imports.

Furthermore, Austria is proud to be the third most important foreign investor in the Czech Republic. One example: Erste Bank has been the majority owner of the biggest Czech retail bank, Ceska Sporitelna, which has 5.5 million customers, since 2000. The trend for capital investments continues: In the first half of 2004 Austrian companies invested more than 200m euros in the Czech Republic.

Plassnik also wants to intensify and deepen the cooperation within the framework of the Regional Partnership. The current situation in Ukraine will be discussed during the talks on Neighbourhood Policy.