Vienna, 24 October 2007 Press release

Winkler: "Croatia - A pioneer in the Western Balkans region"


State Secretary Hans Winkler at Croatia meeting in Vienna

Vienna, 24 October 2007 - "In recent years, Croatia has developed into a reliably stable partner in Europe, successfully pursuing its course towards the European Union. Today, it is one of Europe’s promising regions, to which Austria maintains close political, cultural and also economic relations. Approximately one fourth of all foreign direct investment comes from Austrian businesses - the largest foreign investor in Croatia", said State Secretary Hans Winkler on the occasion of the IDM (Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe)-Croatia meeting.

"The successive rapprochement to the EU is not simply about penetration and integration of new markets. Instead, the primary focus is placed on the reunification of Europe, with the aim of eradicating the roots of historical conflict" stressed Winkler.

"The reform efforts of the Croatian Government under Prime Minister Ivo Sanader have led to impressive progress on all levels - a proof of how much can be achieved when democratic and market reforms are consistently implemented", said the State Secretary.

Winkler acknowledged Croatia’s pioneering role as a stability factor and as an impetus for the entire region of the Western Balkans. "The bright spot of a future EU Membership is, without any doubt, a strong incentive for necessary reforms. These, however, primarily benefit the Croatians themselves", said Winkler.

The State Secretary, however, pointed out that Croatia still needs to undertake efforts in areas that the Commission described as major tasks. "In order to improve the conditions for new investments and privatizations, even deeper institutional reforms are needed in administration, the judicial system, the fight against corruption, and also in the area of labour law and the education system", said Winkler.

The EU policy for Croatia - as with the other countries in the region - follows a bilateral and a regional approach: "By introducing its own reform efforts and steps, each country takes the rapprochement to the EU in its own hands. Nevertheless, the EU rapprochement also includes efforts to deepen regional cooperation. The newly established Regional Cooperation Council, which will be headed by a Croatian, my long-standing colleague State Secretary, will have an important key role to play. Good neighbourly relations are the basis of our common European actions", said Winkler, who once again promised Austria’s targeted support for further efforts.

Federal Ministry for
European and international Affairs
Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469