Wien, 8. July 2005 Press release

Winkler: "European perspective for the states of the Western Balkans"

08.07.2005

First official trip abroad takes State Secretary to Dubrovnik

Vienna, 8 July 2005 - "Especially in the light of the recent developments within the European Union we need to send a signal to the states of the Western Balkans showing that their European perspective is intact", stated State Secretary Winkler on his arrival in Dubrovnik.

His first official trip abroad in his capacity as State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is taking Winkler to the Informal Meeting of Ministers of European Affairs of South East Europe and interested EU Member States. The meeting’s agenda will deal primarily with topics related to the process of rapprochement of the states of the Western Balkans to the European Union, regional cooperation and communicating South East Europe in the European Union. At this conference State Secretary Winkler will also take the opportunity to establish initial contacts with numerous European colleagues participating at the Dubrovnik meeting.

"The year 2006 will be of decisive importance for the countries of South East Europe. The decisions on the future status of Kosovo, the future of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro and the continuation of the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina will have to be taken. Austria will therefore make the South East European region one of the very clear priorities of her EU Presidency", Winkler stated.

"Alongside the process of rapprochement of the countries of the Western Balkans to the European Union, which is in the particular interest of Austria, the issue of regional cooperation in the area is a special concern of mine. After all, the successful cooperation among these countries aimed at bringing them closer to the common goal of a European future represents an important step towards the reconciliation of formerly hostile ethnic groups. The vision of a common European future is the best guarantee for ensuring that these countries will never again see a repetition of the horrors they have experienced in the past", the State Secretary concluded.