Vienna, 14 July 2004 - Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner met with her Dutch counterpart Bernard Bot for official talks in Vienna today. The meeting focused on the priorities of the Dutch EU Presidency, EU accession negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania as well as the situation in the countries of the Western Balkans and in Iraq.
Ferrero-Waldner thanked her Dutch colleague for the EU Presidency’s ambitious working programme, whose priorities include the timely conclusion of accession negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania, the financial forecast, measures to stimulate the economy within the framework of the so-called Lisbon strategy as well as the development of long-term objectives concerning asylum and migration policies.
The Austrian Foreign Minister affirmed, in concurrence with Dutch plans, that the schedule of negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania, including the accession date of 2007, should be followed rigorously: "The negotiations are making good progress, but the candidate countries must fulfil their obligations, especially in the areas of justice and home affairs."
As expected, the situation in the Western Balkans was discussed at length. Ferrero-Waldner reported on her recent trips to South Eastern Europe and her talks with leading members of the Serbian government in Vienna: "I have always emphasised that the prospect of joining the EU would play a decisive role in the positive development of the states in this region. Stability in the Balkans can only be ensured if these countries continue on their way towards Europe." Both sides agreed that the outcome of the recent presidential elections in Serbia was a positive result.
The situation in Kosovo remained, however, a matter of particular concern. The participation of Austrian troops in KFOR - with 600 men this represents Austria’s largest contingent abroad at the moment - illustrated Austria’s great efforts to contribute to the stabilisation of Kosovo. The Kosovo paper drawn up by Austria and the five countries of the Regional Partnership, which was presented at the External Relations Council of Foreign Ministers in Brussels on Monday, was also discussed, said Ferrero-Waldner.
The Austrian Foreign Minister expressed her great satisfaction with the situation in Croatia, which is generally regarded as promising. The progress made by this country found acknowledgement by the European Commission in its Avis of April 2004 and the decision by the European Council to open accession negotiations early in 2005.
Regarding the situation in Iraq, Ferrero-Waldner underlined the absolute necessity of improving the security situation, as this is the only way to win the support of the Iraqi people: "Austria contributes by providing a training programme for Iraqi policemen in Jordan; moreover, Federal Chancellor Schüssel offered, at the NATO summit in Istanbul, to train Iraqi military personnel in Austria ", stated the Foreign Minister.
Austria concurs with the Dutch Presidency that intensified EU action, based on the wishes by the Iraqi people, should complement the measures taken by the UN in the country. This had also been the objective of the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari in Brussels on 12 July 2004.