Wien, 13. December 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Gradually giving substance to European prospects"

13.12.2005

Foreign Minister in the EU Main Committee in preparation for the European Council

Vienna, 13 December 2005 - "We give answers where decisions have to be made and substantiated," emphasised Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik at today’s meeting of the National Council’s Main Committee in preparation for the last European Council before the beginning of Austria’s Presidency. "This is the best way of shoring up confidence again," said Plassnik.

"The Balkans will be the foreign policy focus of Austria’s Presidency," said Plassnik. "The objective will be to gradually give substance to the dynamic concept of European prospects for the region," continued Plassnik.

The forthcoming European Council would have to decide on whether Macedonia should be granted EU candidate status, said the Foreign Minister. "Macedonia is a European success project. The European Union has invested a great deal in keeping Macedonia’s multi-ethnic society together. Now we need to move on. Failing to acknowledge the progress made by Macedonia would be an undeserved discouragement and a setback for the entire stabilisation and accession policy of the European Union."

The decision on granting candidate status would in no way prejudice the fixing of a date for the start of accession negotiations, added Plassnik. "There is still a long road to travel before accession negotiations are started, and incisive reforms will be required on the way."

"I hope that during our Presidency each of the countries in the Western Balkans takes at least one further step towards European standards. Austria consciously advocates a policy of encouragement and support of all countries in the western Balkans," said the Foreign Minister.

"We have to keep the regional connections in mind. It is now imperative to make Austria’s position clear even to those partners in Europe who are sceptical."