Wien, 21. April 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Supporting Albania on its Way to Europe"

21.04.2005

Bilateral Matters, EU Perspectives and the Western Balkans on Agenda of Meeting with Albanian Foreign Minister Islami

Vienna, 21 April 2005 - Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik received her Albanian counterpart Kastriot Islami for a working meeting in Vienna today. Mr. Islami's first official visit to Austria focused on bilateral relations as well as economic cooperation between the two countries and Albania's EU perspectives. Moreover, the foreign ministers discussed issues of legal certainty, infrastructure extension and regional policy in the Western Balkans as well as developments in Kosovo.

"Austria maintains very close relations with Albania. She is a good and reliable partner of Albania at a bilateral level and in the European Union alike," emphasised Foreign Minister Plassnik at the press conference following the meeting. The point was now to identify room for improvement. "What is true of other states in the Western Balkans region, is true of Albania: her future lies within the European Union," Plassnik stressed; she went on saying that Austria supported the earliest conclusion of an Association Agreement between Albania and the European Union, which has been under negotiation since January 2003. In this context, a "fair and calm election campaign, proper parliamentary elections in the summer and further progress in implementing reforms to ensure the rule of law and a sound judiciary system as well as the fight against corruption and organised crime" would be of great importance now.

"Albania is one of the most important countries in the focus of Austria's Eastern Cooperation programme," underscored Plassnik, referring to various Austrian projects in the fields of environmental protection, water management, energy, regional development and vocational training which are financed by Austria to the tune of roughly 22 million euro. She also stressed the role of individual Austrian provinces involved in bilateral projects, such as the province of Vorarlberg and its school projects.

The Foreign Minister said that Austria also contributed to strengthening Albania on its way to Europe under several EU programmes, such as the regional CARDS project in the judiciary sector, which is under Austrian leadership, or by providing assistance to the criminal investigation training of police.

Plassnik acknowledged the role of Albania in south eastern Europe. Due to its moderate and responsible attitude, Albania would contribute to stabilising the situation in the region and maintain good relations with her neighbours.