Brussels, 21 November 2005 - "Today’s meeting is designed above all to prepare for the European Council meeting in December," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the margins of the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting in Brussels.
At the December European Council agreement needs to be reached on the Financial Perspectives. The British Presidency will present a comprehensive proposal in December. "We are still hoping to achieve this aim, not least as we were very close to a solution in June," said Plassnik.
"We bear joint responsibility and have to live up to this responsibility. The time is ripe for a solution. We owe it to our own credibility but also to the new Member States who have undertaken far-reaching reforms in order to be part of this Union," commented the Foreign Minister.
"The arrival at a solution is not made any easier by the passage of time; this is something we must realise in all seriousness," continued Plassnik. The European Union also needs a sound and healthy financial basis in the future. "The citizens of Europe expect tangible progress," the Foreign Minister pointed out.
"We have also discussed improvements in the EU’s civil crisis management capabilities. This is something I attach particular importance to, since cooperation at the EU level is particularly valuable and necessary. We shall work towards improving the EU’s visibility in this respect," stressed the Foreign Minister.
The demand for the EU as crisis manager throughout the world is growing, as illustrated by the tsunami in south-east Asia and the earthquake in Pakistan. Austria regards the civil component of crisis management as being especially important. "Austria has made improvements in practically all areas compared with last year. For example, 110 police officers have been made available for special operations. I should like in particular to thank the other ministerial departments and the federal provinces for their commitment in making civilian experts available," continued Plassnik.
A topical example of the significance of civilian crisis management is the dispatch of a monitoring mission to the Middle East. "The European Union is helping Israel and the Palestinians to reach agreement on the opening of the Palestinian-Egyptian border crossing in Rafah," explained the Foreign Minister.
"This will give the Palestinians their own international border for the first time, opening up important economic prospects for the population of the Gaza Strip," said Plassnik. This solution is a promising example of the faith placed in the EU as a political partner and represents a potential model for overcoming critical situations between Israel and the Palestinians in future.