Austria To Take Over European Council Presidency, Foreign Minister: We Support the Continuation of Reforms

At the verge of Austria taking over the presidency of the European Council, Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl declared that Western Balkans countries will receive special attention.

In an interview with Adelheid Feilcke, published by Deutsche Welle, the Austrian Minister nonetheless stressed that she was not referring to exact dates for opening accession negotiations, but rather support for continuing reforms.

When asked regarding Austria’s objectives for its turn at the presidency of the European Council, that will begin in July, Kneissl stated:

From a foreign policy point of view, it is all about bringing the states of Southeast Europe into the European Union. This region is important to us, it has been severely neglected in the past twenty years. I, myself, avoid the term “Western Balkans”, that is a strange technical concept, for me cities like Sarajevo and Belgrade are also European cities.

When asked about the term “pre-accession” and what tangible measures could be taken, the Austrian Minister said:

We can only use one dynamic here. The states themselves have to implement a whole series of reforms. We can not offer anything here, we can only remind the States that they need to continue their reforms. […] We are in favor of those who are in a position of decision-making to implement reforms so that they are brought closer to the European Union.

Furthermore, Kneissl stressed that the Balkans countries are at different stages pertaining accession negotiations and the same approach cannot be applied uniformly:

These are extremely different countries with very different conditions with regards to the population and the administration. We cannot lump all these states together, but they will continue reforming in positive competition with one another.

Austria will take over the presidency of the European Council from Bulgaria in July.