Sofia, 23 December 2005 - "Bulgaria is currently passing through an important stage and is on the right course to meet the requirements for future membership of the EU in good time," said State Secretary Hans Winkler during a visit to Sofia. "However, Bulgaria still has to make a considerable effort to achieve the goal of accession according to schedule, a goal that is also pursued by Austria," emphasised the State Secretary after talks with Meglena Kuneva, Minister for European Affairs, and Lyubomir Kyuchukov, Deputy Foreign Minister.
The talks focused on Bulgaria’s accession endeavours, the projects planned by Austria’s EU Presidency, regional issues, in particular the Western Balkans, and an increased regional cooperation in the fight against organised crime. The Austrian side drew particular attention to domestic security, above all the control of the EU’s external borders, and to the fight against corruption and crime. "Urgent action is still required in some areas," said Winkler, expressing the hope that Bulgaria would use the remaining time to the best of its abilities.
"Bulgaria’s accession to the EU is scheduled for the beginning of 2007. However, it is too early to say at the moment whether the possibility of a one-year postponement will be made use of under Austria’s Presidency," explained the State Secretary.
"Austria is providing regular support to Bulgaria to help it to meet the accession requirements in good time through the work of Austrian experts in projects in the fields of justice and the environment," said Winkler.
"The last EU enlargement has clearly shown that the accession of states with which we had intensive economic and good political relations even before their accession was accompanied by an additional boost in exports. For us, Bulgaria’s accession to the EU in the near future would further increase growth and prosperity," continued Winkler. "Austria is already one of the big winners of the EU enlargement. Bulgaria’s complete integration in the European zone of stability, the rule of law and economic prosperity will undoubtedly be of great advantage for Austria as well," concluded Winkler.