Wien, 5. November 2008 Press release

Plassnik: "Encouragement and mandate for EU candidates"

Foreign Minister on 2008 progress reports

Vienna, 5 November 2008 - Today, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik welcomed the 2008 progress reports for the EU candidate countries of the Western Balkans as "an encouragement for Croatia on the finishing line and an incentive for all other countries of the Western Balkans".

Commenting on a possible completion of Croatia’s accession negotiations by the end of 2009, Plassnik stated: "This target date is ambitious but possible. The Croatian government must maintain the consistent reform course if the accession negotiations are to be completed by 2009 as scheduled. So far, not all obstacles have been removed and not all requirements have been met. But Austria will continue to support Croatia on its path towards the EU in the best possible way - Croatia may and should be a regional role model for the capacity to join the EU." In this context Plassnik reiterated her view that the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon was not a prerequisite for admitting Croatia to the EU.

"The European offer to our partners in the Balkans is still open. The encouraging results observed in some countries as regards the technical and administrative rapprochement with EU standards must go hand in hand with meeting some basic criteria. In areas such as justice and security, the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the rule of law, in particular, the pace and momentum of the reform efforts must not slacken," continued Plassnik.

In another statement Plassnik welcomed that fact that "the dialogue on visa liberalisation for the citizens of the Western Balkan countries is under way. Austria is supporting its partners in order to enable them to meet the technical and legal prerequisites for an abolition of the visa obligation. Visa liberalisation will go hand in hand with a strong security partnership with each individual Western Balkan state to ensure that ultimately there is not only freedom to travel for many but extra security for us all."

Commenting on the progress report for Turkey, the Foreign Minister stated: "The Commission once more came to the conclusion that the country is not making any progress in spite of isolated reform efforts in specific areas. The question once again arises as to which form of European integration would be appropriate for Turkey. We shall continue to maintain our clear stance on Turkey: open-ended negotiations, no automatic conclusions, a clear preference for a tailored partnership and the emphasis on the EU’s capacity to absorb new members."

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