Vienna, 12 May 2010 – “The EU’s waiting room policy towards the Western Balkans must be ended. For reasons of security, stability and economic opportunity it is in our own best interests to ensure the Balkans’ rapprochement with the European Union as soon as possible,” declared Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger at the opening of a seminar on the Balkans being attended by high-ranking experts. “The current financial and economic crisis must not serve as an excuse for slowing down the process of rapprochement. The EU must keep its promise made ten years ago according to which the Western Balkan states will be admitted to the European Union,” continued the Foreign Minister.
The Western Balkans seminar is the result of an agreement between Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger and Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, and serves as a preamble to the Sarajevo conference of foreign ministers scheduled for 2 June under Spain’s EU Presidency. The seminar, which brings together experts and decision-makers from the Balkans and the EU, including High Representative Valentin Inzko, was initiated today by Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, together with Greece’s Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Michael Leigh, the European Commission’s Director General for Enlargement. The event was also attended by representatives from all the Western Balkan states, including Serbia and Kosovo.
“We must prevent a renewed ‘Balkan fatigue’ from spreading within the EU, a consequence of which would be the Western Balkans’ tiring of reforms. The consequences and drawbacks of such a development would not only be felt by the people of the region, but would also have an immediate effect on us,” stated Spindelegger. The Foreign Minister reminded his audience of the targeted political impetus for the Western Balkans provided by Greece and Austria, which was iterated in a joint letter to the EU’s foreign ministers last year. The presence of the Greek Foreign Minister was a natural follow-up to this joint initiative, which has resulted in some reverberations at the European level.
“The process of rapprochement with the EU requires major efforts by states in the region, in particular in such areas as justice, convergence and congruence with EU law as well as the fight against corruption,” stated the Foreign Minister. Austria also advocates the accession of these countries to the EU in its own interests. “Austria is the largest investor in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, and it also occupies leading foreign investment positions in the other countries of the Western Balkans. Investment requires stable political conditions and reliable structures that are based on the rule of law. Prospective EU membership is an appropriate means of achieving this, which, in the case of Croatia, has entered a highly palpable stage,” concluded the Foreign Minister.
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