Sarajevo, 22 April 2005 - Today, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik arrived for her first official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the morning she visited the Austrian Federal Army contingent which is being deployed within the framework of the European Union Peacekeeping Force, EUFOR. Afterwards, meetings with her Bosnian-Herzegovinian counterpart Mladen Ivanic and with Prime Minister Adnan Tercic were on the agenda.
"Austria’s soldiers in EUFOR are making an important contribution to the permanent stabilisation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They are thus part of a concrete and visible Austrian foreign policy", said Plassnik at the beginning of her visit, praising the commitment of the Austrian soldiers. Plassnik likewise emphasised Austria’s engagement in the field of mine clearing.
In her political talks, Plassnik stressed the close bilateral relationships between the two countries and also referred to an ever strengthening economic partnership. Furthermore, according to the Foreign Minister, there is an intensive dialogue between the civil societies of the two countries, which has also become manifest in a number of private relief projects in Bosnia.
The rapprochement of Bosnia-Herzegovina towards European structures was discussed, as was the future of the international presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Bosnia has made significant efforts to come closer to Europe", said the Foreign Minister. "From Austria’s point of view, the same rule applies to Bosnia-Herzegovina as to all the other countries of the region: the door to Europe stands open." Austria is confident that Bosnia-Herzegovina will fulfil the requirements to take up negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement before the end of this year. These include full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague and the reform of police structures. Plassnik said that South-East Europe’s rapprochement towards the European Union would be one main focus of the Austrian EU Presidency this coming year.
This evening Plassnik will meet with the Special Representative of the international community of states, Lord Paddy Ashdown, in order to talk about the most recent developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina.