Wien, 29. December 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "Welcome to the EU family"

29.12.2006

Invitation to energetically continue reform efforts

Vienna, 29 December 2006 - Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik will participate in the celebrations being organised to mark Romania's and Bulgaria's accession to the European Union, respectively on Sunday, 31 December 2006, in Bucharest, and then on Monday, 1 January 2007, in Sofia.

"With the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, the circle of European reunification that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain 18 years ago is now complete. Then, Europe was facing an epoch-making challenge, one which we have coped with successfully and in a highly responsible manner. Romania's and Bulgaria's accession to the EU is part of this historic task. This accession has been preceded by demanding and careful preparations that have continued for more than a decade. The EU is taking this step of expanding the European space of freedom, security and justice with prudence and realism," stated Plassnik during preparations for her trip.

"In spite of the impressive spurt over recent months, Bulgaria's and Romania's path to Europe is far from being fully covered. I am confident that these new Member States will energetically counteract the forces which even today want to have a break after passing the finishing line of this first leg," stressed the Foreign Minister. In order to ensure the long-term success on the European course, reform efforts would have to be continued consistently, particular so in such fields as the rule of law and combating corruption.

Further to this Plassnik also referred to the new protective mechanisms laid down in the Accession Treaty. "Austria's commitment to the idea of a special control and monitoring mechanism - which shall continue to be applied after accession - has been successful. It ensures that weak points can be dealt quickly and effectively. These comprehensive protection mechanisms of the Accession Treaty provide us with security, and there will be no compromises as far as strict compliance with community rules is concerned" affirmed the Foreign Minister.

This stage of EU enlargement, which still relates to neighbouring countries, offers manifold opportunities for Austria, particularly in view of the fact that it is already the biggest foreign investor both in Romania and Bulgaria. "Bulgaria and Romania are part of the Danube region which has many ties with Austria and great prospects for the future. The coalescence of the Danube region gives us the opportunity to fully leverage the human, cultural, political and economic potential of this region," said Plassnik.

In Bucharest, Ursula Plassnik will celebrate Romania's accession to a 27-state "European family" with President Traian Basescu, Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu and Foreign Minister Mihai-Răzvan Ungureanu, as well as with numerous representatives of the EU Member States. On New Year's Eve celebrations will climax with a folk festival in Revolution Square.

In Sofia, the Foreign Minister will attend the formal ceremony being organised by the Bulgarian government. After flying the European flags in the famous Alexander Nevski Square, the guests of President Georgi Parvanov, Prime Minister Sergei Stanischev, and Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin, will attend a gala concert entitled "Bulgaria Salutes Europe".

Contact:
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press Department
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213
abti3(at)bmaa.gv.at