Austrian Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl has arrived for two-day visit to BiH, where she is going to meet with senior state officials, religious leaders, and representatives of Austrian entrepreneurs. Following the meeting with Austrian counterpart on Thursday, BiH Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak stated that this meeting was the beginning of a new, more intensive cooperation.
It was reiterated during the meeting that Austria will continue to be a big friend and partner of BiH. “We made a brief review of our bilateral relations, which are exceptional. Austria is still number one in investments in BiH , and we are developing very good relations in other sectors”, stressed Crnadak, adding that he also informed the Austrian FM about answering of the European Commission’s Questionnaire with delay, and that the answered document will be submitted in end of the month. He expressed hope that process of reforms and European integration will continue, although this is the year of elections. “It was reaffirmed that Austria remains, just like it was before, a true support to BiH and strong factor, who advocates accelerated integration of BiH. I reiterated that continuation of successful regional cooperation is equally important goal for BiH and that we would like to strengthen stability of relations between Serbia, Croatia and BiH”, he underlined.
FM Kneissl said that bilateral relations of the two countries are very close and are continuously developing. She emphasized that there are some 160,000 people in Austria coming from these territories, and that relations between population in Austria and BiH are very close. “Minister and I agreed that we prefer titling the region with artificial name – Western Balkans as the Southeast Europe, because this underlines that BiH is part of Europe”, she stressed, concluding that Austria remains a strong supporter of BiH’s road to the EU, which will be particularly seen during the Austrian Presidency of the EU.
Chairman of BiH Council of Ministers (CoM) Denis Zvizdic also met with Austrian FM, to discuss the improvement of bilateral relations and European road of BiH. The officials agreed that relations of the two friendly countries are good and not burdened by open issues. Zvizdic informed Kneissl about reform processes and European road of BiH, emphasizing that current composition of the CoM launched positive reform processes after a period of stagnation and brought new energy to European aspirations of BiH, which resulted in successful finalization of answering to the Questionnaire. FM Kneissl expressed full support of her country to reform processes, European road of BiH and the EU enlargement policy in the Western Balkans. She added that Austria supports territorial integrity, reconciliation , stability and building up of democratic societies in the Western Balkans.
In an interview she gave for Friday issue of Dnevni avaz daily newspaper, FM Kneissl said that there is a window of opportunity for this region at the moment, which has to be seized. “As of 2015 this country is back on the EU course again, a series of reform measures has been successfully implemented. In any case, the work on reforms over the past year, unfortunately, has significantly slowed down. Decision makers here must act against slowing down and, despite the October elections, they must clearly demonstrate it to the EU that, when they speak about reforms, they mean. This particularly refers to the rule of law, legal state, and essential reform of electoral legislation”, she stressed. Asked why is that so, she replied it is because a country that aspires to become a member state must be capable of implementing the decisions of its constitutional court and to implement elections in a legal manner, in line with the international standards, while respecting the need of legitimate representation of peoples and citizens.
Asked if her visit to BiH is the first visit to one of the countries in this region, she replied it was, although she already held talks with representatives of the region. “I chose BiH knowingly as the first country in the region, because this country is in my heart owing to its special and multiple relations with Austria, including Austrian economy as number one investor, owing to its multiethnic nature, but also owing to its complex, problematic political situation, which is opposite to wishes of citizens and the country’s possibilities. The Western Balkans, it means BiH as well, remains Austria’s foreign policy focus. Besides, I give priority to the name Southeast Europe. We want progress of enlargement process in the Western Balkans as soon as possible. This goal will remain in focus of Austrian Presidency of the European Union Council in the second half of this year”, Kneissl underlined.