Wien, 8. November 2004 Press release

Croatian Foreign Minister Zuzul visits Foreign Minister Plassnik

08.11.2004

Talks focused on bringing Croatia closer to the European Union

Vienna, 8 November 2004 - Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today received the Foreign Minister of Croatia Miomir Zuzul for a working conference in Vienna. In addition to EU issues, the meeting centred on various bilateral items.

"Already in the past Austria has played a pioneering role in bringing Croatia closer to the EU and Austria continues to endorse Croatia's rapid accession to the Union", underlined the Foreign Minister. Regarding the opening of accession negotiations, Austria still expects the beginning of 2005 to be the target date. The issue of Croatia's cooperation with the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, which is repeatedly raised in this context, is particularly important, according to Plassnik, who stressed the urgent need to continue an extremely close cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

With regard to his country's rapprochement to the European Union, Zuzul emphasised that Croatia is preparing for the initiation of negotiations intensively and at all levels and asked the Austrian Foreign Minister for support in this priority project for Croatia. In addition, Foreign Minister Zuzul informed the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs about political developments in Croatia, where presidential elections will take place soon.

Foreign Minister Plassnik for her part praised the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries: "Every year between 50 to 70 high-ranking visits and return visits take place", emphasised the Foreign Minister, making reference in this context to the most recent visit by Federal President Fischer. The development of economic relations between the two countries is impressive, according to the Foreign Minister, who stated: "Contributing a share of 26% of total capital expenditure, the Austrian economy has positioned itself since 1993 as the biggest foreign investor in Croatia." Austrian exports have constantly increased in the period since Croatia's independence and currently amount to some 604m euros, a trend which is continuing. The generally favourable framework conditions in Croatia might be further enhanced by reform in the administrative area and the judiciary, among others, added Plassnik.