Vienna, 18 December 2013 – Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz welcomes the fact that the EU will take up accession negotiations with Serbia on 21 January 2014. "Yesterday's decision to start EU accession negotiations with Serbia is a crucial step at the end of what was an eventful year in the Western Balkans. I congratulate the Serbian government on this highly deserved break-through in its efforts", Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz commented today on the decision of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council. The decisive factor for commencing accession negotiations with Serbia is the continued progress made in the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The stable and peaceful development of the relations was proven by the fundamental agreement reached between Serbia and Kosovo in April of this year. Kurz called upon both sides to "further pursue reconciliation swiftly and with courage".
Given the geographic proximity, the history shared with Austria and the close personal, economic and cultural ties, the Western Balkans play a highly specific role for Austria. "Austria is not only the largest foreign investor in Serbia, but also in Croatia and in Bosnia Herzegovina. More than 400 companies are currently represented in Serbia, and the continued reform process will certainly open up many additional opportunities for Austrian enterprises", Foreign Minister Kurz said.
As far as the further development in the Western Balkans is concerned, the Foreign Minister is clearly in favour of continuing the strategy of rapprochement to the EU: "One thing is very clear for Austria: the Western Balkans belong to Europe. After Croatia has become an EU member and following the current accession negotiations with Montenegro, the first accession conference with Serbia, which is to be held in January 2014, is the next logical step of moving the entire region closer to the EU. We hope that 2014 will bring clear progress in rapprochement to the EU also for Albania, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina", the Foreign Minister concluded.
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