Vienna/Dublin, 21 January 2013 Press release

Lopatka: Costs of non-enlargement of the EU would be high

Discussion about more involvement of EU citizens in EU policy

Dublin, 21 January 2013 – "The enlargement process of the European Union also needs to be pushed ahead under the Irish EU Presidency. I advocated this case at the informal council in Dublin today. Not least because the "costs of non-enlargement" have to be taken into consideration as well", State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka said.

"The year 2012 was highly important for the EU enlargement process: Croatia reached the finishing line for EU accession; accession negotiations with Montenegro were initiated, and Serbia was granted candidate status. Now it is time to take the next concrete steps, such as entering into negotiations with Macedonia and also with Serbia if relations to Kosovo continue to improve. Some EU states are currently prone to a certain "enlargement-weariness", which is why the Austrian commitment is particularly important. If the EU does not remain active, i.e. if the countries of the Western Balkans are deprived the EU perspective, a "vacuum" is going to build up in the region and other players will automatically gain significant influence. Whether by Russia, Turkey or other emerging states ... the vacuum would immediately be filled", the State Secretary said.

"Without the EU perspective several developments could occur: Instability in the region would increase. Violent conflicts could flare up again, with all consequences and costs for the EU, such a higher migration pressure on EU countries. Another consequence could be more cross-border crime and loss of business for Austrian and European companies due to lack of investment opportunities that would follow the state of legal uncertainty. The consequences for Austria, one of the top investors in the region, would be disastrous, if the states were to put a halt on their reform efforts", Lopatka said. Austria is the number 1 investor in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with more than 1,500 subsidiaries of Austrian companies in the Western Balkan states. "It is of vital importance for Austrian investment that these states continue to fight against corruption and organised crime and make their legal and administrative systems more efficient", the State Secretary said.

Other issues at the meeting were the democratic legitimacy and accountability within the European Union. "Austria is in favour of more pronounced cooperation at EU level and further integration. Only together and as one strong Europe will we be able to stand up to global competition. Today's discussion was an important initiative of the Irish EU Presidency that covered precisely those items that Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron focused on in the speech that he did not make. EU politicians, in particular, are called upon to overcome the gap between EU level and the people in the member states. The project of Europe will only be successful if it has the backing of its citizens. Further steps towards integration will in any case have to be worked out by a European Convention. There must be no more taking of fundamental decisions behind closed doors in future", Lopatka concluded.

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