Vienna, 29 November 2007 - "The countdown is running. In 22 days our neighbourly relations with Hungary will make a European quantum leap with the enlargement of the Schengen area. The disappearance of the border posts and barriers will mark the final removal of traces of the Iron Curtain that separated the two countries for so long - inconceivable 20 years ago, but a reality today," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today at the second joint Austria-Hungary government meeting. "Hungary is top of the class in preparations and has readied itself conscientiously and far-sightedly for the responsible task of guarding the EU outer border. The enlargement of the common Schengen area will bring more, not less security for us all."
"For the respective populations, Austria and Hungary are both number one in terms of popularity. This joint government meeting is thus not just an expression of the breadth and depth of our close neighbourly relations but also of the importance of networking and close cooperation in a converging Europe," continued Plassnik.
"Hungary is a valued and respected partner at all levels - regional, European and global. Our cooperation is wide-ranging, from our support together of an international ban on cluster munitions to collaboration in the Regional Partnership and closer consular cooperation," stressed the Minister. At the joint government meeting bilateral questions regarding cultural, economic and technical cooperation were discussed along with the latest developments in the European Union. On the margins of the meeting a cooperation agreement on consular representation and tourism was signed by Foreign Ministers Plassnik and Göncz.
"Our consular activity is a particularly dynamic area of Austro-Hungarian cooperation," said Plassnik. The first joint EU visa offices have been opened by Austria and Hungary in Chisinau and Podgorica. The cooperation agreement signed today will enable Austria and Hungary to represent one another in visa questions in selected places outside the EU. "This agreement puts our traditionally good cooperation in visa issues on a new level. This will be of benefit to our citizens and also demonstrates the strength of our mutual trust - the agreement will allow both of us to have representative offices in places where it was not possible in the past."
Plassnik: "Through the targeted mutual support and close cooperation in consular affairs Austria and Hungary are playing a pioneering role in the EU that could act as a model for future European foreign offices," explained Plassnik. "Austrians and Hungarians in difficulty can now turn to the embassies and consulates of the other partner in the countries concerned."
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