Dubrovnik, 7 July 2006 Press release

Winkler: "The rapprochement of the Western Balkans with the EU is and continues to be our concern"


State Secretary Hans Winkler at the informal meeting of the Southeastern-European Ministers for European Affairs in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, 7 July 2006 - "The support and strengthening of the Western Balkan countries was a focus not only during our EU Presidency, but is and will continue to be our special concern," said State Secretary Hans Winkler at the informal meeting of the Ministers and State Secretaries for European Affairs in Dubrovnik. The meeting focused on the further rapprochement of the Western Balkan states with the EU, regional cooperation, and improved communication of the objectives of the accession process and the challenges involved.

"Security, stability and peace on the entire continent is the hallmark of the European Union. For our neighbours in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, the European perspective constitutes a considerable incentive for carrying out fundamental reforms in these countries. However, for the benefit of both the applicant countries and the EU, their integration into Europe may proceed only step by step, and primarily depends on the progress achieved by the individual countries. Our task is to continue to support each individual country in instituting what are sometimes far-reaching and difficult reforms," affirmed the State Secretary.

"However, in addition to the process of rapprochement between the Western Balkan states and the EU, we must pay special attention to regional cooperation in the area. Successful cooperation between these countries also constitutes an important step towards the reconciliation of formerly hostile ethnic groups and the basis for a peaceful life together." Winkler expressed the conviction that "the vision of a common European future is certainly the best guarantee that the horrors of the past will not be repeated."

Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Mag. Katharina Swoboda
Cabinet of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469