Vienna, 16 June 2013 – In his speech, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger invited participants at the European Forum Wachau to make an experiment in thinking and to consider what may emerge from the event under the motto “Beyond the Crisis – Outlines of a New Europe”: "Let’s take a look at the past few years of crisis from the perspective of future generations: They will be able to see clearly how during a very difficult economic phase the EU was able to take up completely new instruments for common economic and political control and steering and how it also united behind a strengthening of the economic and currency union and did all of this in an incredibly short period of time." The Vice-Chancellor said it had to be acknowledged that the EU had now moved into a better position than it had been in at the start of the crisis. There must not be a slackening on the resolve for implementation now, he said.
The focus of the Vice-Chancellor’s speech was on the European Union's enlargement policy: "The enlargement process impressively demonstrates the unbroken attraction of the EU as a common space for freedom, security and the rule of law. It also represents a driving engine for the candidate countries, which they are using to push ahead their domestic reform processes."
We have a particularly dense network not only of common history with the Western Balkans, but also of political, economic, cultural and personal relationships, Spindelegger said. "Austria thus stands emphatically for these Western Balkan countries becoming EU members as soon as possible. The Project Europe will remain piecemeal without the Western Balkans. Let us regard the EU membership of Croatia in two weeks’ time as the ignition spark for the EU approach of the entire region." The Vice-Chancellor underlined the Austrian position of giving full support to an earliest possible start of EU accession negotiations with Macedonia, for the candidate status of Albania and for a membership application to be made with credibility for Bosnia and Herzegovina. These aims involve that the political elite in these Balkan states would be prepared to jump over their own shadows and to do their homework. "Only when this has happened will Austria have those arguments in its hand that it needs as the advocate for the region to convince people in the other European capitals", Spindelegger said.
In this context, the Vice-Chancellor welcomed the presence of the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci, at the meeting in Göttweig, which was also their first encounter outside of the UN in New York or the EU in Brussels. The two politicians are the architects of the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, signed only a few weeks ago, which is now being widely referred to a historic. "Of course we are well aware that this agreement on paper needs to be filled with life and implemented without delay. But the first results have already been achieved. Further ones will follow", Spindelegger said and added: "I am personally convinced of the irreversibility of the process. This is why I stand for a clear and explicit recognition and encouragement of Serbia and Kosovo. I expect a clear signal to emerge from the EU Summit at the end of June on the subject, i.e. a tangible target date for the opening of accession negotiations with Serbia and for the start of negotiations for a stability and association agreement with Kosovo." This target date – Spindelegger said – could from his point of view fall within the current year, but should at the latest be in January 2014.
In conclusion, Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger emphasised once again that it would be important for the European Union to speak with a single voice in the future: "We must not withdraw into a European snail shell. When we stand together we are stronger and in a better position to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. We need not shy away from this. Because Europe stands on a powerful basis."
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