Brussels, 7 November 2005 - On the sidelines of today’s meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said: "The pieces for Austria’s EU Presidency are falling into place bit by bit."
As an example the Foreign Minister cited the European Commission’s confirmation that it will present its papers on the European themes of the future in the first half of 2006. Furthermore, the current Presidency had explained its approach to the further treatment of the Financial Perspective during today’s meeting.
"The financial forecast has had the wind in its sails since Hampton Court and agreement should be reached in December", continued Plassnik. Today’s discussion reflected the desire for political agreement at the European Council in December.
In this connection Plassnik referred to the Austrian proposal submitted in June 2005 which provides for an additional 10 billion euros for future-oriented research and development projects in cooperation with the European Investment Bank. Rural development was also an important theme, not least in the light of European competitiveness.
In the morning the EU Commissioners Mandelson and Fisher Boel provided information on the WTO negotiations in preparation for the Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in December. In the afternoon the agenda included a number of political issues.
Martti Ahtisaari, designated by the UN Secretary-General as Representative for the Kosovo status negotiations, will participate in the discussion on the Balkans. "We hope that the start of the negotiations on the future of Kosovo will give rise to a positive impetus. Stagnation does not help. Austria has offered support to the British EU Presidency, for instance in the form of concrete political work on the European prospects for the entire region", said Plassnik.
Plassnik regarded the negotiations on an EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia and Montenegro, which are starting today in Belgrade, as another important piece in the overall mosaic.
The Ministers for Europe also discussed the reflection phase and the national debates on this subject, in particular the ways in which the EU can communicate its added value to its citizens (Communicating Europe).