Wien, 17. December 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "Austria's foreign policy has edges and profile"

17.12.2006

Foreign Minister at ORF Pressestunde

Vienna, 17 December 2006 - "Austria's foreign policy certainly has edges and profile," said Foreign Minister Plassnik on today’s during ORF Pressestunde, referring among other things to Austria's clear position in the context of enlargement. "I am glad that the awareness for the issue of absorption capacity has increased. The point here is that the EU also has to do its homework before enlargement. And it is also necessary to reduce the speed of the EU’s enlargement processes to address this topic carefully and to improve communication and information," said the Foreign Minister with regard to the results of the European Council of heads of state and government held last Thursday and Friday. Plassnik recalled that the respective decisions had been the result of persistent work started on Austria’s initiative. The Austrian position according to which the Union’s absorption capacity in the context of enlargement processes had to be particularly taken into account had meanwhile become the mainstream European opinion.

In the accession negotiations with Turkey Austria was pursuing a differentiated course. "We have a preference for a tailor-made partnership with Turkey. This is a political assessment that is in line with reality. Turkey is a close partner of the EU, and we will continue to work consistently at intensifying this relationship. Today nobody can say whether there will be full membership at the end of the day. The outcome of the negotiations is open, there is no automatic result," said the Foreign Minister, who spoke out clearly in favour of a referendum in Austria following the completion of the negotiations.

Plassnik underlined the importance attributed by Austria to the European perspective for the countries of the Western Balkans. "The EU’s enlargement to include Romania and Bulgaria will complete the fifth enlargement round - quasi the accession of neighbourhood. The task now is to ensure the rapprochement of the Western Balkan states with the EU in a careful and precise manner. This objective is Austria’s national concern," said the Foreign Minister.

She also emphasised that the increase of Austrian Development Cooperation and thus in compliance with international obligations as laid down in the Millennium Development Goals was an important issue in which all sides would have to participate actively in the future.

In connection with the negotiations on a coalition government Plassnik said that 11 January was a target date of the negotiation schedule but not necessarily a government programme. It was imperative to work seriously and swiftly on the formation of a government whereas finding the right combination of stability and dynamics was of decisive importance. The main issue at present was to work on content, not to take decisions on who would occupy which position.

Asked to comment on budget policy, the Foreign Minister emphasised that nobody could possibly want "a backward roll to the seventies". Burdens instead of relief could not be the target for "Austria as an economic location where one would want to live." "You can always do things better in life, no doubt about that. But we should also stop automatically denigrating everything what happened in the past," commented Plassnik on the "unpleasant climatic fluctuations" prevailing in the negotiations on a coalition government. The government had created a solid basis over the past few years, and now the time had come to build on it.

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