Belgrad, 3. October 2012 Press release

Lopatka: "Serbia can count on Austria to be its partner"

State Secretary encourages Serbia to embark on pro-European course

Belgrade, 3 October 2012 - "Further rapprochement of Serbia and the other Western Balkan regions is a priority of Austrian foreign policy. Our expertise in Southeast Europe is undisputed. We are pursuing the right priorities and enjoy credibility in this issue", Austrian State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka said on his visit to Belgrade.

The State Secretary left for two days of bilateral working meetings in Serbia on Tuesday. He met, among others, with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Integration Suzana Grubjesić, the State Secretary in the Serbian Foreign Ministry Vera Mavrić and the Director of the Office for European Integration Milan Pajević, the Director of the Parliament Nebojša Stefanović (SNS) and with leading politicians of the opposition. The many talks and meetings revolved around Serbia's future approach to Europe and around economic cooperation as well as the Austrian commitment to cooperations in twinning projects.

"We will continue to support the European integration of Serbia on all levels. Good neighbourly relations and the normalisation of the relationship between Belgrade and Pristina are the most essential elements in this process", Lopatka said and added: "It is now up to Serbia to take the necessary steps so that accession negotiations can start soon."

The State Secretary also used the occasion of his visit for an intensive exchange with representatives of the Serbian Parliament. "It is decisive to Serbia's rapprochement to the EU that the pro-European approach is supported by the widest parliamentary majority possible. Austria made the same experience during its accession process", Lopatka said.

State Secretary Lopatka discussed options of intensifying the already very close economic cooperation with the State Secretary in the Serbian Ministry of the Economy, Vlajko Senić, and Austrian business people. "The economy has proven to be an important engine in Serbia's and the whole region's rapprochement to the EU. Austria, as the biggest foreign direct investor in Serbia acts as a pioneer in this field and also because of the 400 Austrian companies represented in Serbia", the State Secretary explained.

Other items on the agenda of the visit were the cooperation in the framework of the EU Strategy for the Danube region and Austria's role as a twinning partner. "By European comparison, we are holding an excellent second place with our twinning activities in the Western Balkans. In Serbia alone, Austria is involved in eight projects thanks to its expertise in the environmental and agricultural sectors; the projects total volume amounts to 13 million euros." Only recently, Austria was entrusted with the implementation of a (20 million) EU project on socio-economic development of the Serbian Danube region. "The fact that the Austrian Development Agency has been chosen for managing this projects underlines that they have opted for the right approach with our dedicated focus of our development policy in Serbia on regional, economic development in Serbia that we have pursued over the past few years", the State Secretary concluded.

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