Brussels, 12 December 2005 - "Today’s meeting is devoted to the preparations for the European Council of 15 and 16 December," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.
"It is regrettable and not very helpful that no new British proposal for the Financial Perspective has been put forward. However, an agreement at the European Council is still possible. It is also necessary because the Union needs a sign that it is able to act," continued Plassnik.
The Foreign Ministers discussed the recommendation of the European Commission to grant candidate status to Macedonia as an acknowledgement of the remarkable progress made since 2001, when the country was on the brink of civil war. "Austria is in favour of granting candidate status to Macedonia," declared the Foreign Minister.
Reservations of other Member States had to be taken seriously, but a clear distinction also had to be made between candidate status and the start of negotiations. "Until then important reforms are still required. The European perspective, however, is of decisive importance for all states in the region," said Plassnik.
The Foreign Ministers also deliberated on how the European Union could contribute to the efforts to settle the status of Kosovo. Plassnik emphasised that "the Union has important tasks to deal with, especially at the moment."
Plassnik referred in particular to EU activities in the fields of policing and rule of law. Regional integration was also important regarding the energy market and bilateral free trade agreements, for example.
"A long-term solution to the Kosovo question will be found only if the entire region is embedded in the European peace and stability zone in a reliable and durable manner," concluded Plassnik.
The Foreign Minister also announced that in the light of the forthcoming EU Presidency Alexander Schallenberg and Nikola Donig would join the Foreign Ministry’s communications team in Vienna and Brussels.
Alexander Schallenberg will become the Minister’s press spokesman in Vienna. Together with Astrid Harz, head of the Press and Information Department, he will assist the Foreign Minister in her media work. Schallenberg has been a member of the Austrian Foreign Service since 1997. He is a demonstrated expert in EU affairs and in the last few years has been legal adviser to the Austrian Permanent Mission in Brussels.
Nikola Donig will look after press and information work at the Austrian representation in Brussels during the Austrian Presidency. Born in Lower Austria, the 34-year-old has worked as a journalist for 15 years for numerous media including the Niederösterreichische Nachrichten, Die Presse and ORF. His most recent position was an EU correspondent for ORF Radio in Brussels.
Contact for further enquiries:
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
From Austria: 050 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
From abroad: ++43 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: 050 1159 213 or ++43 50 1159 213