Den Haag, 30 November 2004 - "The cautiously positive expectations which have become noticeable in the Middle East issue recently have also shown in the talks held on the fringe of the EUROMED-Conference", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on Tuesday at the Foreign Ministers’ Conference of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership in The Hague. "This conference is the only forum in which the European states come together with the Arab countries of the Mediterranean region and Israel. Europe is thus attributed an important confidence-building role in this framework. Austria for her part brings her close contacts and traditionally good relations with the Middle Eastern region to bear here."
Presently to the fore is the holding of elections in the Palestinian Territories and particularly the presidential elections scheduled for 9 January 2005 in order to settle the question of who is to be Yasser Arafat's successor. According to the Foreign Minister, the current readiness of all sides to cooperate is evident among other things in the declared readiness of Israel to support this process on the part of the Palestinians. Thus Israel’s Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom stressed during his talk with Foreign Minister Plassnik today that he was exploring new possibilities for a dialogue with the Palestinian side through this channel.
"Austria like other EU Member States will support the process by sending election observers. I welcome the positive contribution by the European Commission. Both EU External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner and High Representative Solana have promised to help with regard to the elections and reforms in the Palestinian Autonomous Area", said Plassnik.
Foreign Minister Plassnik furthermore met with the Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani Mulki, her Palestinian counterpart Nabil Shaath and Solomon Passy, the Foreign Minister of Bulgaria which currently presides over the OSCE, with whom Plassnik discussed the situation in Ukraine.
At the conference, the Foreign Minister also took positive stock of the cooperation between the European Union and its Southern Mediterranean neighbours: "We are having an intensive dialogue with our neighbours and partners on topics such as the European Security and Defence Policy, the fight against terrorism, migration and judiciary cooperation, reforms in human rights matters and democracy and prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." These are, according to the Foreign Minister, areas in which progress can only be achieved by working together.
"Our common goals have resulted in positive dynamics in the political relationships between the European Union and her southern neighbours. By establishing the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership nine years ago, the Union and the countries of the Mediterranean region decided in favour of neighbourly cooperation at the regional level", said Foreign Minister Plassnik.
"The European Neighbourhood Policy will now supplement the Barcelona Process. This form of cooperation which is even more flexible will devote greater attention to the specific framework conditions and individual needs of the respective partners", said Plassnik. "The European Neighbourhood Policy will let our partners have a share in the stability of the enlarged European Union", concluded the Foreign Minister.