Wien, 26. September 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Rapprochement of the Western Balkans to the EU is an important issue to us"

26.09.2005

Opening of a Branch Office in Podgorica in November

Vienna, 26 September 2005 - Today, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik met for talks with the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic. Apart from bilateral and regional topics, the meeting centred on the future development of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro and rapprochement to the European Union.

"The rapprochement of the Western Balkans to the EU is an issue of importance to Austria, which will also be a focal point of the Austrian EU Presidency", said Plassnik. According to the Foreign Minister, negotiations concerning a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Serbia-Montenegro can be taken up before the end of this year.

With a view to the future of the State Union, the Foreign Minister said: "We support all efforts which aim at the two parties coming to an agreement by way of negotiations. A working and stable State Union would also be the best basis for rapid European integration," said Plassnik.

As regards the relationship to Montenegro, Plassnik said that Austria and Hungary would open branches of their respective Embassies in Belgrade, which will be housed in a shared office in Podgorica. This future branch in Podgorica will be a coordination office, which is being created under the auspices of the "Austrian Development Agency" (ADA) in agreement with the Foreign Ministry. The ADA's project work in Montenegro is focused, among others, on schemes for promoting small and medium-sized enterprises, environmental projects, as well as regional and tourist development.

Plassnik stressed that "the prompt opening of accession negotiations with Croatia" would be an "important signal of encouragement for the whole region." According to the Foreign Minister, the European Union could now show "that it is serious about concretising the European perspective - country by country, exactly according to the status of their respective attainment of European standards."