Wien, 19. December 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "A milestone in regional cooperation in South Eastern Europe"

19.12.2006

Foreign Minister comments on today's signing of a new Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA)

Vienna, 19 December 2006 - "The modernised and enlarged CEFTA 2006 opens up a new chapter in the regional trade relations. It creates an important impulse, not only for the further economic development of the region but also for its ‘accession to Europe,” explained Plassnik in response to today's signing of the new multilateral Central European Free Trade Agreement in Bucharest by Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia and UNMIK/Kosovo.

"The Agreement can be described as the result of a true community effort. Much of it has been achieved thanks to the tireless work of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe and the pro-active support of the European Commission", continued Plassnik. She recalled that the decisive impetus for this Agreement had been given in 2005, at the meeting of heads of state and government of the countries of South Eastern Europe. This yearly meeting hosted every year in Salzburg by Federal Chancellor Schüssel “assists their own development and strengthens the countries' European perspective," she added.

"Nevertheless, it is the states of the region themselves who have brought the negotiation process to a successful conclusion within a relatively short space of time. In doing so, they have given an impressive demonstration of both their resolve and their ability to work together in a forward-looking and pragmatic manner. Allowing constructive resolutions of problems is the expression of a new spirit in the region , even when difficult issues are involved," the Foreign Minister went on.

"As was the case with Austria's former membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), CEFTA provides the states of the region with a concrete framework for their common goal of EU membership. The Agreement is thus not only a milestone in regional cooperation in South Eastern Europe, but also a major step forward for the European peace project of my generation: the reunification of Europe through integration of the countries of the Balkan region," Plassnik concluded.

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