Vienna, 24 November 2005 - "Austria and France have a strong interest in the smooth functioning and further development of the European Union," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of the visit by French Minister Delegate for European Affairs Catherine Colonna to Vienna.
The meeting focused on the preparations for Austria’s EU Presidency. "I hope for more confidence and fresh impetus for Europe. Given the current difficulties, we must not give in to resignation but reaffirm the strengths of Europe so they become visible and tangible," said Plassnik.
The Foreign Minister confirmed that there was wide agreement between the Austrian and French positions regarding EU finances. "We expect that agreement on the Financial Perspective will be reached before the end of December. We are doing everything possible to encourage the British Presidency to come to an agreement for time is running out," said Plassnik. "We also have a special responsibility for the new Member States who require planning certainty," she added. If no agreement was reached in December, Austria’s Presidency would continue to try to come to an agreement.
Referring to the debate concerning the future of the Union and the question of the future of the European constitution, the Foreign Minister said: "We have to make intensive use of this phase of reflection and listen to the European citizens closely. We have to re-strengthen the trust of the citizens in the EU and make them aware of the advantages and added value of European integration," emphasised Plassnik.
In this connection the Foreign Minister referred to the "Sound of Europe" conference scheduled for January next year in Salzburg, which will deal with the question of European identity under Austria’s EU Presidency.
Plassnik informed Colonna of the planned Western Balkans focus and the necessity of concrete European prospects for the entire region of South-Eastern Europe. The Foreign Minister also referred to the EU spring summit on growth and employment which will take place during Austria’s EU Presidency, underlining the fact that strengthening the efforts for more growth and youth employment at EU level was a common concern.
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