Brüssel, 16. March 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Croatia Is an Important Part of a Future Europe"

16.03.2005

"After today's Council decision, the door to negotiations for accession remains open"

Brussels, 16 March 2005 - The door to negotiations for accession remains open for Croatia," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik after today's meeting of the Council of EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs in Brussels. "In difficult circumstances, Austria and a number of European partners have reached a result which should encourage Croatia to continue the reform process the country has started and move decidedly on towards European integration."

Today, Austria again renewed her support for starting entry talks immediately. However, a majority of the member states believed that the required criteria had not been met at this point.

As of today, Croatia was, however, given a negotiation framework for EU accession, said Plassnik. "The EU foreign ministers will get these negotiations underway as soon as possible," the Foreign Minister added.

According to Plassnik, the EU foreign ministers had agreed that Croatia made major economic and political progress in the past few years. Austria and several other member states underscored Croatia's efforts to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague. In respect of the case of former General Gotovina, accused as a war criminal, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said: "The important thing is: there is agreement about the fact that the case of an individual cannot decide the political destiny of a country."