Wien, 16. November 2004 Press release

Foreign Minister Plassnik in Slovakia

16.11.2004

Talks will focus on European policy, neighbourhood policy and bilateral issues

Vienna, 16 November 2004 - Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Ursula Plassnik will make an official visit to the Slovak Republic today. Her talks with Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic, President of the National Council Pavol Hrusovský, Prime Minister Mikulás Dzurinda and her Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan will focus on questions of European policy and the Regional Partnership, as well as bilateral issues.

In the run-up to the visit the Austrian Foreign Minister emphasised the especially friendly and close relations between the two countries: "Vienna and Bratislava are the two closest European capitals, and not only in geographical terms. Slovakia's accession to the EU has lent our relations a new quality, and our regional cooperation can now enter a more intensive phase between partners in the Union." In this context Plassnik pointed to the joint approach taken in the negotiations on the EU Constitution and the elaboration of a concept paper on Kosovo, as well as highlighting the high value she attaches to neighbourhood policy. "In my inaugural address to the Austrian National Council I pledged to continue promoting regional cooperation, firstly because it is an excellent instrument for carrying through our joint interests, and secondly because even we close neighbours have still got a lot to learn from one another."

According to Plassnik, the bilateral economic relations between Austria and Slovakia are also developing very well: "The dynamic trend in our bilateral trade we have been seeing since 2000 is extremely pleasing. Austria's volume of trade with Slovakia is more or less equal to that with Russia or Poland, and Austria is also one of the major foreign investors in Slovakia. In addition to the visibly strong presence of the Austrian banks, a total of around 1,700 Austrian companies - many of them small and medium-sized enterprises - are also active in our neighbouring country."

The Foreign Minister went on to highlight the importance of an efficient infrastructure as the basis for further positive development of the border regions: "The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the North-East Motorway, the so-called Kittsee Spur, due to take place next week, is an important step in this respect. Another positive development is the step-by-step realisation of the Austrian Transport Master Plan, which is now under way. Furthermore, two projects of major importance to both Austria and Slovakia - the Vienna-Bratislava rail link and the development of the Danube waterway - have now been accorded priority at EU level too," Dr. Plassnik concluded.