Vienna, 17 October 2013 Press release

Spindelegger: "Deepening and enlargement of the EU complement each other"

Austria's Foreign Minister on progress reports of the European Commission

Vienna, 17 October 2013 – "Deepening the European Union goes hand in hand with expansion in the Western Balkans. It is therefore in the interest of the European Union, and in particular in the interest of Austria, to initiate the necessary measures today that are required to ensure future security, stability and economic growth in our immediate neighbourhood. The European Commission takes account of this requirement with its recommendation to focus the accession process in the Western Balkans not only on the rule of law but also on economic reforms in future", Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said welcoming the expansion strategy and progress reports presented by the European Commission yesterday. "The Western Balkans is a growth region. Austria's economy will certainly benefit from its political stabilisation and burgeoning economic boom", Spindelegger continued.

The Vice-Chancellor welcomed the progress achieved by Serbia and the Kosovo and called for implementing the decision taken by the European Council in June of this year. This would mean the initiation of negotiations of a stabilisation and association agreement between the EU and Kosovo by the end of this month, and taking up accession negotiations with Serbia in January 2014 at the latest. Albania has also made progress in seeking access to Europe: "Following the successful parliamentary elections, the peaceful change of government and the implementation of important reforms, we are backing the European Commission's recommendation to grant candidate status to Albania still this year", the Vice-Chancellor announced.

As already suggested for the fifth time in succession in the European Commission's report, Austria is also continuing its support for the earliest possible initiation of EU accession negotiations with Macedonia. Efforts in this direction have to date been impeded by the name issue and the dispute with Greece concerning this. "The fact that the reforms demanded by the EU have been taken must be acknowledged, and it is now up to the EU to keep its promises in return. Putting Macedonia in a backwater means risking a halt to the reforms which could indeed have consequences for the stability in the region. And the immediate neighbours in the EU can certainly not be interested in that", the Foreign Minister said.

Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger also expressed his concerns about the standstill of the process of integrating Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite intensive efforts on the part of the European Commission and the European Union's Special Representative in Sarajevo, a decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union dating back to 2009 has still not been implemented. "Bosnia runs the risk of losing touch. The political forces in the country must finally realise that reforms are indispensable if the country is to move closer to the EU. There will be no shortcuts and no discounts. The politicians will have to live up to their responsibility and put their personal interests behind those of their country", the Vice-Chancellor said.

Austria would in any case continue its policy of encouragement and support for all Balkan states. "We want the region to make headway on its journey towards Europe. This is in the interest of the region, the European Union, and in the interest of Austria in particular", Spindelegger concluded.

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