Brussels, 8 December 2009 - "Today the European Union is sending more concrete signals of encouragement to our partners on the Western Balkans. The EU is affirming that Croatia could complete its accession negotiations in 2010 if it further intensifies its reform efforts. The end of the blockade of the interim agreement by the EU brings a new dynamism into Serbia’s rapprochement process. The beginning of accession negotiations with Macedonia is also coming within reach", said Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on the sidelines of the EU Council of the EU Foreign Ministers, which adopted extensive conclusions on the enlargement.
"The odds are good that 2010 is going to become the 'Year of the Western Balkans' for the EU. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and the unblocking of the negotiations with Croatia, the EU now has its hands free, and can put the rapprochement of the region back to the top of the EU agenda", Spindelegger continued. „Croatia is on a clear course toward EU membership, and the door is also open to the other partners on the Balkans for further rapprochement steps. I expect that the stabilization and association treaty with Serbia will be released for approval by the Member States in the coming months. In any case, Austria shall continue to consistently support its partners on the Balkans on their way to Europe."
"This will bring a new momentum to reform policies in the region", emphasized the Foreign Minister, yet stressing that this does not represent a „carte blanche“. "The individual countries must increase their reform speed and concentrate intensely on the next steps. This also applies to the positive assessment of Croatia’s and Serbia’s cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal. Zagreb and Belgrade must continue to endeavour intensive cooperation with the Tribunal."
With regard to the Council’s discussion on Turkey, Spindelegger reminded of the clear expectations of the EU and demanded action by Turkey on the Cyprus problem. "The position of the EU is clear: the way to Brussels also leads through Cyprus. No movement on this issue means that there will be no movement in the negotiations either. The EU has already frozen eight major negotiation chapters. And this will not change. Our message will be well understood in Ankara, even without further tightening."
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