Luxembourg, 13 June 2005 - Yesterday’s conclave of foreign affairs ministers saw too little movement in the positions of the individual Member States with regard to financial perspectives, said Ursula Plassnik, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the General Affairs and External Relations Council held in Luxembourg on Monday. However, the commitment to reaching an agreement on the EU’s budget for 2007-2013 before the end of the Luxembourg Presidency has become stronger among all participants. Ms Plassnik welcomes this development all the more since, according to her, "compromise is Europe’s strength".
The Minister for Foreign Affairs urged that the upcoming European Council be used, under the given "challenging circumstances", to prove Europe’s ability to act. "It is the goal of this week’s European Council to strengthen confidence in Europe. Europe is able to act. Europe listens to the people, and Europe looks after its responsibilities." Plassnik demanded that the present challenges be met with calmness and moderation and that European egotism be replaced by European realism.
The Foreign Minister explained that, in negotiations, she had clearly stated Austria’s concerns regarding both the amount of the total budget and the allocation of sufficient funds for rural development, the border regions and the transeuropean networks. She expected Great Britain to adjust its position on the issue of the British rebate, she affirmed.
After the meeting of the Task Force on Croatia on Sunday, the Council of Foreign Ministers had today adopted "reasonable and balanced" conclusions, Plassnik said. She urged that Croatia remain on the Council’s agenda. "The European Union welcomes the positive steps on the part of Croatia, which were attested by Carla Del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, and encourages Croatia to continue to proceed with this course of action. This is an important signal to Croatia, the region and the outside world", the Austrian Foreign Minister maintained.
With regard to the other items on the agenda of today’s Council meeting, Plassnik emphasised the exchange of opinions on Kosovo, which entailed an extensive debate on the future role of the European Union, and once again underlined the importance of this issue, and the situation in South-Eastern Europe in general, for Austria. "This issue will also be a major concern during our EU presidency next year." According to Plassnik, the EU’s work for security and stability in the Balkans for the benefit of the European perspective is not only a "voluntary exercise" but an "obligation", particularly at a time when some of the political leaders in the region are unsure about the EU’s future commitment to this region. Affirming the EU’s commitment, especially at the present time, is a good signal, she underlined.
Asked about Turkey, the Foreign Minister said that Austria had no reason to change its position on this issue and pointed out that, during the last European Council in December, Austria had successfully supported the establishment of a specific framework for negotiations and advocated that the results of negotiations be kept open. According to Plassnik, 3 October is not about accession to the EU. This is also what Foreign Minister Gül stated during his recent visit to Austria. "3 October, according to current policy, is about the opening of open-ended negotiations," said Plassnik. "This is the beginning of a very long process, with a multitude of opportunities for the European Union to react. During this process, Turkey will change substantially, and we cannot foresee the results of this process from today’s perspective."