G, 5 June 2004 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner: The future of Europe does not lie primarily in territorial expansion


The Foreign Minister sees new perspectives for regional partnerships in the Europe of 25

Göttweig, 5 June 2004 - In her address at this year's European Forum Wachau held at Göttweig Abbey, Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner began her considerations on the future development of Europe by taking up an idea expressed by Peter Sloterdijk. In his essay "Falls Europa Erwacht" ("If Europe Awakes") the philosopher, who lives in Vienna, reflects from an historical point of view on the succession of empires built in Europe and concludes that the discriminiating European today understands that the revision of the principle of empire building is the supreme task in both theory and practice. The Foreign Minister elucidated: "I believe there is much truth in this reflection, especially now that we have successfully overcome the after-effects of the last, probably most terrible attempt at forming a European empire, which tore our continent apart for decades. We must think of a new kind of European future - a future which does not aim primarily at expanding Europe in the traditional sense by extending its territory as far as possible, but one which shares its peace, its prosperity and its values with as many people as possible, including those beyond the immediate, physical borders of the Union. This has to be the goal of the future, and the road that takes us there must be paved with individual perspectives for cooperation and integration".

With a view to a potential accession of Turkey to the European Union, Ferrero-Waldner said: "honesty requires us to state that Turkey is today not yet ready to join the EU. And the EU today is not yet ready for such a step either. Because we must not forget that it is also essential that the Union is in fact able to cope with a country’s accession". Austria would at any rate continue to fully support Turkey in her further steps towards reform. "Only if it exports stability instead of importing instability will Europe have a safe future. In this connection, those countries that want to take this approach of offering an individual European perspective - but not necessarily one that will more or less automatically result in accession in every case - are acting in Europe’s own best interest. And in any case it is not in the European interest to close the door a priori on countries wishing to orient themselves by Europe", the Foreign Minister added.

In this connection Federal Minister Ferrero-Waldner also emphasised the importance of the regional partnership principle - in terms of cooperation between equal partners - both in Central Europe and in Europe generally. Referring to the importance of regional partnerships and their essential role in promoting active European neighbourhood policy, the Foreign Minister pointed out: "what is important is to liberate the current borders from their connotation of separation. The fact of the matter is that the EU will need to cooperate with its neighbours in the East and also those on the southern shores of the Mediterranean in order to successfully tackle the challenges of the 21st century - including, among other things, new threats to security, environmental protection and migration. And under the European Neighbourhood Policy some important approaches have already been developed in order to meet this goal".

In her address the Foreign Minister also referred to the Regional Partnership between the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria she had initiated in 2001. Its first phase, which consisted in assisting Austria’s neighbours on their way into the Union, had been completed with the recent enlargement of the EU.

The fact that this partnership process has reached the people too, can best be seen in the Province of Lower Austria, which shares common borders with two new EU Member States. Province Governor Erwin Pröll had launched some remarkable cross-border initiatives, Federal Minister Ferrero-Waldner explained, stating that "here in Lower Austria the success of the Union is becoming visible: in the immediate neighbourhood and in regional cooperation. Here the citizens can see whether policy makers are really willing to overcome historical prejudices. Here the citizens can see the concrete value and benefits the EU enlargement brings for each individual".