Sebastian Kurz visits all 6 Western Balkans countries in 6 days
On Monday, 8 February, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz began a 6-day trip to the Western Balkans in Sarajevo. “The central topic is the refugee crisis“, Sebastian Kurz stated. At the outset, he met Austrian entrepreneurs in Sarajevo in the early morning.
At this meeting with the Austrian business community, the Federal Minister, together with the head of the new “Unternehmensservice” (Business Support Service unit) at the Foreign Ministry, Envoy Hans Brieger, presented this department’s central tasks and also the recently introduced “Austrian Leadership Programs”, under which young foreign executives are invited to Austria for high-level events. Subsequently, Foreign Minister Kurz met his counterpart Igor Crnadak. The two ministers signed an agreement on scientific-technological cooperation aimed in particular at improving know-how transfer. With a volume amounting to 1.3 billion euros, Austria is the largest investor in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bosnia and Herzegovina:
In his talks with Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić and the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Covic, Bakir Izetbegovic, Mladen Ivanic, Sebastian Kurz again reiterated Austria‘s support for the country’s clear European perspective. In order to facilitate rapprochement with the EU, Austria has agreed for the first time on a bilateral action plan with Bosnia and Herzegovina containing defined implementation measures. At midday, Sebastian Kurz, together with this counterpart, opened the Cultural Year 2016 Austria-Bosnia and Herzegovina at the National Theatre. This year of culture, which boasts more than 50 events in both countries, seeks to improve mutual contemporary understanding in both countries. In the context of the related events many young Bosnian artists are also being invited to Austria.
In the afternoon, Sebastian Kurz travelled on to Belgrade, where he and the President of the Austrian Economic Chamber Christoph Leitl, met Austrian and Serbian entrepreneurs in the evening. On Tuesday 9 February, Foreign Minister Kurz met the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, with whom he also discussed potential solutions to the refugee crisis. Located along the Balkans route, Serbia and Macedonia are particularly affected by the issue of refugees in transit.
Austria seeks to work in a targeted manner with the countries along the Balkans route, and Serbia is being particularly cooperative. Prime Minister Vucic thanked Sebastian Kurz for his support in the context of Serbia’s process of rapprochement with the EU. Before the end of the year, several negotiating chapters are to be opened. A new common action plan for even closer cooperation on the country’s path towards EU membership was presented. Kurz praised the impressive pace at which Serbia was implementing reforms and thanked Vucic especially for “bringing stability to the region“.
“Serbia is a very important partner for Austria and the most important country here in the region”, Kurz stated. At the same time, Austria is the largest foreign investor in Serbia. Together with the President of the Austrian Economic Chamber Christoph Leitl and the Serbian Minister of Economy Zejlko Sertic, Sebastian Kurz signed a MoU regarding the dual apprenticeship training system. Austria’s forthcoming Chairmanship of theOSCE in 2017 also featured among the topics addressed in the meeting with Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic.
On his trip to the Western Balkans Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz travelled on to Montenegro on Wednesday, 10 February. Together with his counterpartIgor Lukšić he presented the bilateral action plan aimed at supporting Montenegro in opening further EU negotiation chapters. Qualitative progress in the fields of the rule of law and freedom of the media play a key role in this context. The two foreign ministers also signed a bilateral cultural work programme covering the period until 2019. In his talks with President Filip Vujanović and Speaker of Parliament Ranko Krivokapić, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz again confirmed Austria’s support for Montenegro’s accession to the EU. During his stay, Sebastian Kurz also had a meeting with Austrian entrepreneurs and business representatives in Podgorica. Austria is one of the most significant investors in Montenegro.
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