Salzburg, 2. August 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Croatia - a role model for South-Eastern Europe"

02.08.2005

The Balkans need the European perspective

Salzburg, 2 August 2005 - Prior to the Meeting on Stability in South Eastern Europe in the 21st century to which Federal Chancellor Schüssel had invited the Prime Ministers of the region, Foreign Minister Plassnik participated in today’s deliberations of the special academy on Croatia organised by the Herbert Batliner European Institute.

In her speech the Foreign Minister dealt with both the current debate on Europe and Croatia’s progress towards European structures.

"Despite the fact that Austria and Croatia have no common border, Austria views Croatia as a neighbour, as we are connected by many common cultural and historical experiences", said Plassnik. "We also have close economic ties. Austria is the largest foreign investor in Croatia and the mutual exchange of goods between our two countries is also very high. This is an expression of the high degree of mutual trust", added the Foreign Minister.

Austria had always supported Croatia to the best of her ability on the latter’s road towards the European Union. Plassnik also reminded her audience of the EU task force which was largely the result of an Austrian initiative and whose purpose was to facilitate the start of negotiations on Croatia’s accession to the EU. "In the case of Croatia the question of Europe’s borders does not arise. Croatia was and is part of our Europe", continued Plassnik.

The Foreign Minister encouraged the Sanader government to continue its course towards a common Europe in a determined manner despite the difficulties and to continue the reform process without delay.

"In her approach towards Europe Croatia is also a role model for her neighbours in South Eastern Europe. She testifies to the fact that thanks to the European perspective there is an opportunity to leave the wars of the nineties behind and move on to the community of peace and prosperity offered by the European Union. This process is also being closely observed by Croatia’s neighbours in the region", emphasized Plassnik.

"During our EU Presidency we will strive to achieve concrete results for the region - moving the countries of South Eastern Europe closer to our common European structures and supporting the reform process in these states", concluded Plassnik.