Vienna, 17 December 2007 - "The EU Membership of Bulgaria and Romania has opened numerous opportunities for Austria. Austria has not only benefited significantly from the dynamic development in the region, it has also contributed to this development. Austrian exports to Bulgaria, for instance, rose by up to 24% last year. Today, our country is the biggest investor in Bulgaria. This enhances the competitiveness of our companies and creates jobs", said State Secretary Hans Winkler after his meeting with the Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Lyubomir Kyuchukov.
"Bulgaria’s accession also shows the potential power behind the will toward change and modernization. The people in Bulgaria have managed a huge reform process in recent years. The objective now is to continue the outstanding reforms with the same consistency. Greater legal certainty, less corruption, the reinforced fight against organized crime, better safety standards for food and in aviation - just to name a few examples - are in the interest of the people in Bulgaria and of Europe", said Winkler, emphasizing the necessity to continue this ambitious course.
Winkler stressed that, due to its geopolitical position, Bulgaria also has an important role to play in cross-border cooperation with the neighbouring countries and the implementation of European standards: "Through Bulgaria’s accession, the EU has become a neighbour of the Black Sea states. This directly enhances the interest of Austria and of the EU in the modernization and stability of the Black Sea region. In concrete terms, this involves the promotion of practical, result-oriented cooperation in areas of transnational significance such as energy, environment, transport, migration, and the fight against organized crime. The opportunities resulting from closer cooperation at all levels are evident. We can continue our successful course only by enlarging the European area of security, stability, and freedom beyond the borders of Europe."
In this context, the State Secretary also pointed out to the importance of the Energy Community of South East Europe, which now has its official seat in Vienna. "International cooperation is indispensable in energy policy. The challenge of energy supply and climate change cannot be managed by individual Member States or by the EU alone. The issue is supply security, diversification, and sustainability. Therefore, our declared aim is to gradually integrate South East Europe in the EU energy market by 2015."
The State Secretary also referred to the economic and political significance of the Danube. "Today, Bulgaria is already assuming important regional tasks in connection with the Danube Cooperation Process, the establishment of the Central European Free Trade Agreement, and also in the said cooperation in the area of energy. Especially the European development in recent years offers us the opportunity to increasingly use the Danube region as a binding element between Central Europe and the Black Sea, and to better exploit the advantages of the Danube region".
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