Vienna, 17 May 2009 Press release

Spindelegger: "Making targeted use of the Donau Region as an engine of growth"

Foreign Minister at the European Forum Wachau

Vienna, 17 May 2009 - "The Danube is an artery of life for Europe. It creates a common living space, and represents one of the major vital links in the new Europe. In a sense, the Danube is also a symbol for the European future, as the river of a reunited Europe: It flows into the direction of enlargement and connects the founding members of the EU with those who have become members of the EU in recent years, and with those that can join in the future", said Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger in his speech at the European Forum Wachau in the Göttweig Abbey. Especially here in Lower Austria, people are very much aware of the importance of the Danube, its influence on the lives of people, on history, and on their creative power.

Spindelegger: "Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe have been the engine of growth for Europe in recent years. The current difficult economic situation does not change the long-term economic potential of this region. Therefore, I launched an initiative together with my Romanian colleague, aiming to underline the importance of the Danube as one of the central rivers of the continent on a European level as well.

Our aim is to assign the Commission at the next European Council with the development of a comprehensive Danube strategy. The multifaceted activities and programs of the EU in this region must be combined under a common and coherent umbrella."

The Foreign Minister stressed that, in its role as a binding element, the Danube today is not the end but the starting point for innovation. "In the Black Sea region, an additional area is opening up for the European Union, which bears a great potential for a dynamic development that we should support and promote more intensively. Therefore, I want to further deepen the already existing political, economic, cultural, and human relationships with the Black Sea region. Especially in times of crisis, it is indispensable to carry out an active neighbourhood policy."

When asked about the ongoing EU election campaign on the sidelines of the European Forum, the Minister clearly condemned the inflammatory election slogans used by some sides. "Even election campaigning does not justify the stirring up of negative stereotypes and absurd prejudices, especially against the some 350,000 Muslims in Austria. Targeted acts of provocation are being committed here, which must be rejected with the utmost determination. The coexistence of the people in our country and in Europe is a demanding task, which must not be allowed to be taken hostage by individual political adversaries in their effort to stand out. We all carry a joint responsibility for this."

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