Pristina, 9 October 2009 - "Austria and Kosovo have been bound by an amicable and close partnership from the very start. We were one of Kosovo’s companions on its way to independence, and we actively supported the difficult process headed by Martti Ahtisaari at the time", said Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger during his visit to Kosovo on Friday 9 October 2009. "Kosovo is a key factor in the long-term stabilization of the Balkans. Our primary aim remains a peaceful, multiethnic Kosovo in which all people, regardless of their ethnic or religious origin, can live in dignity and security", said the Minister.
Spindelegger added: "This, however, requires that the government actively caters to the needs of the Serb minority. A test of this will be the local elections in November. I hope that the Serb population will participate in this election in great numbers. The objective of the government in Pristina must be to turn these first elections in Kosovo into an encouraging signal for the future of all Kosovars", stressed Spindelegger.
During his one-day visit, the Foreign Minister met with the President of Kosovo Fatmir Sejdiu, and with Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. On the sidelines of the meeting with Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, the two politicians signed a bilateral framework convention on development cooperation. In the afternoon, Spindelegger payed a visit to the Austrian KFOR troops and to the commander of the KFOR Mission, Lieutenant-General Markus Bentler.
"The EU perspective applies to the entire region of the Western Balkans - thus also to Kosovo", emphasized the Foreign Minister, who also pointed out, however, that Kosovo still faces enormous challenges: "The main focus must be on strengthening state institutions and the development of a state under the rule of law. The international community and above all the EU are willing to help, but the government in Pristina must also seek close cooperation with the EULEX Mission."
Austria has been supporting Kosovo in the development of state structures ever since it became independent. Currently 17 policemen and policewomen, 2 judges and 4 prison guards from Austria are participating in the EULEX Mission. In addition, Austria’s almost 700 soldiers constitute the largest contingent from a non-NATO country in the KFOR Mission. "Our international engagement in Kosovo represents a concrete neighbourly contribution toward stabilization in the entire region", said the Foreign Minister.
"Austria, however, is also strongly engaged on a bilateral level. We endeavour a targeted development of our relations, especially in the field of business“, said Spindelegger, who pointed out that Austria could offer expertise in particular in the areas of insurance, banking, energy, and civil engineering. "With today’s signing of a framework convention on development cooperation, we are taking another concrete step toward establishing our cooperation on a stronger institutional basis. I hope that we can soon begin negotiations on an investment treaty as well."
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