Wien, 21. January 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "Energy policy - an integral component of EU external policy"

21.01.2007

Serbia as an important theme at tomorrow’s Council meeting of EU foreign ministers

Vienna, 21 January 2007 - "The fact that both 2006 and 2007 began with an energy crisis clearly demonstrates the increasing significance of energy issues in our relations with our neighbours. The initiative taken by the Austrian Presidency to develop a common energy policy for Europe, therefore, is and remains on the European radar screen. Under the German Presidency the Austrian-Finnish work in this filed will thus continue to be a red thread," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik prior to tomorrow’s Council meeting at which EU foreign ministers will discuss the European Commission’s proposals on the energy policy aspects of EU external policy. The foreign ministers’ consultations will provide the basis for the European Council in March, which will also focus on energy issues.

"The issue now is to ensure that the energy policy dimension is firmly anchored as part of the EU’s external policy agenda," emphasised Plassnik. Security of supply, diversification and sustainability were the key requirements, while international networking and cooperation were also indispensable. "The challenges of energy supply and climate change cannot be met by individual member states or the EU alone. In this respect, both networked thinking and workings are necessary. The inclusion of South-Eastern European states in the EU’s energy community and the planned Nabucco gas pipeline across Austria are steps in the right direction," continued the Foreign Minister.

However, the EU would have to continue to also draw oil supplies from politically unstable regions. "Our persistent efforts to stabilise and intensify cooperation with these regions will therefore have to be consistently continued. Investments in political stability are also investments in our own supply security," emphasised Plassnik.

Tomorrow’s Council meeting will focus on Serbia’s parliamentary elections which are being held today. The outcome of the election and the subsequent formation of the government will be instrumental in the decision as to whether or not Serbia will continue its further rapprochement with the EU and thus leaving the legacy of the past behind.

"Today, Serbia is standing at a crossroads as regards its future. I hope that as many of the electorate as possible will cast their votes. The participation of Serbia’s minorities in this vote is also important in order to achieve an election result that is as representative as possible," said the Foreign Minister, who met with Serbia’s leading government representatives in Belgrade last week. The country was facing major challenges. Serbia was now entering the decisive stage of the Kosovo status process and would have to take important decisions in its process of rapprochement with the EU. "Austria will continue to give its full support to Serbia on its course towards the EU," concluded Plassnik.

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