Vienna, 27 November 2005 - "Austria can look back on 60 years of peace, stability, security and prosperity. The question now is in which neighbourhood we want to live in for the next 20, 30 or 60 years. This question is closely related to making the European prospects for the Balkans more concrete, which is the driving force behind the reforms in the Balkans and in South-Eastern Europe," said Plassnik. "I would like to see a development towards peace, stability, security and prosperity in the Balkans which makes it unnecessary to ensure security by military means. We will benefit from this process on all sides, in Austria, in Europe and in the Balkan countries," said Plassnik in the ORF discussion programme "Offen gesagt".
The accession of Romania and Bulgaria is scheduled for 2007; at the moment it was impossible to say whether the possibility of postponement by one year would be made use of under Austria’s Presidency, said Plassnik. "Austria is supporting Bulgaria and Romania with specific projects, such as the building of a functioning judiciary. But we are checking carefully whether the homework is being done," continued Plassnik.
Foreign Minister Plassnik rejected Jörg Haider’s criticism that there was no accession strategy, referring to the accession round successfully completed on 1 May 2004: "In 2004, ten new Member States acceded to the Union; the accession of Romania and Bulgaria will complete this accession round, and the accession prospects for the Balkans are not in question. However, there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Prior to the start of negotiations with Turkey I made sure that the homework will have to be done on both sides, by Turkey and by the EU," added the Foreign Minister.
Asked about the reasons for the current scepticism towards the EU, the Foreign Minister said: "The Austrians are cautious people. But if you take a close look at the results of the polls, you will see that the mood has remained constant over the years. It is pleasing to see that public approval for enlargement has grown clearly since 2004," she continued. Commenting on the forthcoming EU Presidency, Plassnik said: "We will keep our feet firmly on the ground and fulfil our task with commitment and dedication."
"The Presidency is not a request programme: in addition to the themes on the EU agenda we will provide specific stimuli in the fields of growth, employment and neighbourhood policy in the Balkans and in South-Eastern Europe," continued the Foreign Minister.
Plassnik expressed her conviction that Austria would benefit from the forthcoming enlargement steps towards the Balkans and South-Eastern Europe. "Already now we are back in the centre, at the heart of Europe; for Austria this means stability, peace, freedom and great economic advantages," concluded Plassnik.