Vienna, 29 April 2005 - "EU enlargement by ten states one year ago was an important step towards a new, modern and future-oriented Europe", said the Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of the first anniversary of EU enlargement on the first of May.
"A lot of positive developments have taken place since. We observe great stability, European self-confidence and economic progress in all of the countries that just a few years ago still suffered from the consequences of communist dictatorship", stated Plassnik.
Since the Iron Curtain came down in 1989, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have gone through a stage of profound change and thorough transformation and successfully coped with this challenging process. Naturally, there is further need for change, as Plassnik pointed out, but all these problems can be overcome in a unified Europe.
At the same time, according to Plassnik, many fears of the "old" Europe have not come true. The European labour market has not been swept over by a wave of cheap labour. On the contrary, social standards in disadvantaged regions have improved.
At the political level, Europe is functioning smoothly. "There has been no trace of the anticipated paralysis and the representatives of the new states have blended into the European institutional framework perfectly. They have become fully integrated partners in the political process. The enlargement has proved to be a success story for the future of Europe," stated Plassnik.
"Jointly with our new partners we are now working for the people of the entire region at the European level. Cooperating on issues of common interest is paying off well. We jointly undertake tasks like developing solutions for the future of Kosovo. The EU countries’ ministries of the interior cooperate closely in combating organised crime and corruption, and our parliamentarians are engaged in a broadly-based dialogue", so Plassnik.
Austria has gained and re-gained new neighbours and partners in the enlargement process. "Seen from this perspective, 1995 marked the first step of Austria’s accession to the EU", so Plassnik, "but the process was truly completed on the first of May 2004." Austria benefits more than any other European state from the enlargement process, lust but not least in economic terms. But according to Plassnik the entire population is making good use of discovering its new neighbours and cultivating cultural contacts. According to Plassnik close cooperation also exists on issues of common security and safety. "Only jointly will we be able to cope with the challenges of the future", so Plassnik.
The Treaty on the European Constitution is the first important common project undertaken by the new, larger Europe, on which the new partners have intensively cooperated. The Treaty on the European Constitution means more participation for everybody, and creates a clearly structured, transparent Europe with fully functionable institutions", stated the Foreign Minister. A trend-setting start for close cooperation between the states and peoples within the new Europe was made in the EU Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference.
With the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, which is currently scheduled for 2007, the next enlargement stage will be completed, so Plassnik.