Minister for Foreign Affairs Kurz: “Only full EU-integration can stabilise the Western Balkans for a lasting time”

Sebastian Kurz on the European Commission’s progress reports

Vienna, 10 November - Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz commented on the European Commission’s progress reports, which were presented earlier today: “Most of the Western Balkans countries’ progress on their way in direction of EU-membership is noticeable and positive. The Commission’s new methodology renders possible an improved analysis on the progress made in the respective countries in the last year. This creates a positive competition. The new progress reports also underscore that all candidate countries still have a lot of hard work before them and EU support towards this is essential. The current refugee crisis is no exception in this respect as it shows, how important the Western Balkans countries and Turkey are to Europe in tackling this particular challenge.”

Sebastian Kurz emphasised, concerning the EU-accession process, the economic potential of the Western Balkans countries and especially the necessity of continuing reforms as well as the fight against corruption. “The Western Balkans countries’ economic potential is considerable. The up to now successful Berlin-Process, initiated by Chancellor Merkel, in which Austria is strongly involved plays a significant part in this. I am glad, to see the processes’ and the Vienna Summit of August 2015s results respectively highlighted. The perspective of EU-accession remains demanding at the same time. The mere drafting of new laws and rules is not sufficient; their entire scope must be fully implemented. This is especially true for the association processes’ main pillars and even more so for the rule of law area including the fight against corruption and organised crime, which all still require great attention”, Sebastian Kurz elaborated.

Sebastian Kurz showed himself delighted concerning the successes in Montenegro’s accession negotiations, the entry into force of the stabilisation and association agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina on 1 June and the signing of the stabilisation and association agreement between the EU and Kosovo in the end of October. “Serbia was able to score important improvements, especially also in the dialogue with Pristina, and plays a constructive role in the region. Therefore I believe, that the first two chapters with Serbia may be opened by the end of the year. Albania should keep up the reform vigour after receiving EU-candidate status in June 2014, so that accession negotiations can be initiated soon. Macedonia unfortunately at the same time shows, how fast steps backwards may come to be. In any case I sincerely hope that domestic political differences can be overcome and that following the general elections in April a working government can swiftly be formed, which will pick up the reform course”, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kurz underlined.

“Turkey is a key country in tackling the current refugee crisis. We therefore must work together with Turkey in a transparent and honest manner, to reduce the refugee streams into Europe and to supply the refugees in the region as good as possible. Turkey also is an important regional player, especially concerning the Syria-peace efforts. Simultaneously we do expect an EU-accession candidate country like Turkey to fully adhere to the fundamental rights like freedom of opinion, press and assembly, as well as further reforms towards strengthening the rule of law. The peace process with the Kurds, in the framework of which much was achieved already, should be re-established as quickly as possible”, said Sebastian Kurz. “I am confident, that the accession to the EU by the Western Balkans countries is our own best interest. Austria has very close ties on a human, cultural, political or economic level with this region in our immediate proximity. Only a complete integration of the countries of the Western Balkans into the EU can stabilise the region politically and economically for a lasting period of time”, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz closed.