Brüssel, 18. July 2005 Press release

Plassnik and Winkler at the first Council of EU Foreign Ministers with Austria as a Troika member

18.07.2005

Brussels, 18 July 2005 - In Brussels today, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik stressed that the priorities of the British Presidency - the constitutional debate, the financial forecast, the fight against terrorism and the stabilisation policy in the Balkans - were also of special interest to Austria. Austria would support the British Presidency to the best of her ability.

As far as Turkey is concerned, Plassnik reported that upon request of the Presidency there had been no discussion as regards content. The topic would be dealt first at ambassadorial level, then at the Gymnich Meeting of Foreign Ministers on 1-2 September in Newport and at the Council of Foreign Ministers at the beginning of October. She said that she respected the suggestion of the British Presidency that time not to discuss as regards content. However, Plassnik warned her colleagues not to give the impression of avoiding discussion of the issue. The decision of the Foreign Ministers on the negotiating framework was not a formal decision but a political decision. The European Union would do no service to its credibility by simply avoiding critical issues.

"The decisions of the European Council of December 2004 constitute the basis. A debate on content is necessary and avoiding discussion about the negotiating framework would not be advisable, particularly in view of critical public opinion and the short time left until intended negotiations start on 3 October. Regarding the question of negotiations with Turkey the Federal Government of Austria has always pursued a completely clear course. There is no reason to change this", said Plassnik.

"From the Austrian perspective there are three points that are important. The open result of the negotiating process is one point; accession may be - but does not have to be - the result of the negotiating process. At the same time it must be ensured that the European Union is ready for a Turkish accession. We have always spoke for a course which would further the discussion of alternative solutions. Austria is of the view that these points should be more clearly respected by the negotiating framework", continued Plassnik.

With regard to Croatia the Foreign Minister said: "The work in the task force for Croatia, which was established upon the initiative of Austria, is of special concern to me. I am monitoring this work personally. As for fixing a date for starting negotiations with Croatia, the full cooperation of the Croatian Government with the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague is an indispensable prerequisite. Meanwhile, the Croatian Government has obtained important results on the basis of the action plan, which makes us confident that a date for negotiations can be fixed as soon as possible."

Moreover, Plassnik reported that another topic discussed by the Foreign Ministers during lunch was the Middle East.

On the fringes of the meeting, Foreign Ministers Plassnik and her French counterpart, Philippe Douste-Blazy, agreed on the exchange of Foreign Service employees.