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Meetings Calendar 2006
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Press Releases

27.04.2006

Plassnik: New initiatives for facilitating visas for the Western Balkan states

The Foreign Minister welcomes the “flexible compromise solution” found by the EU Ministers for the Interior.

 

Foreign Minister and EU Council President Ursula Plassnik welcomed today’s compromise solution by the EU Ministers for the Interior on the question of Schengen visa fees. She stated that this “flexibly” takes into account the EU’s special foreign policy interests.

Plassnik considers it very positive that certain groups of persons – minors, students and researchers – will no longer have to pay the visa fee anywhere in the Schengen area.

“This is in line with our goal of giving young people, in particular, in the Western Balkan countries an opportunity to get to know Europe better through their own experiences and to make greater use of the educational opportunities the EU offers”, said Plassnik.

In addition, she welcomed the EU Interior Ministers' request to the Commission to develop draft negotiating mandates for visa facilitation and readmission agreements, starting with the Western Balkan countries. “I consider it to be particularly positive that the Interior Ministers have expressly based this step on the fact that the Western Balkan states are countries with European prospects, in accordance with the decisions of the European Council of June 2003 and June 2005”, Plassnik stressed. “After the Salzburg Declaration by the Foreign Ministers in March of this year, this is the second time that the Union, under the Austrian Presidency, has confirmed the EU prospects of our neighbours to the south-east.”

Finally, Plassnik mentioned that the Interior Ministers have agreed to leave visa fees at their current levels until at least 1 January 2008 for those countries with which the visa facilitation and readmission agreements are to be negotiated, i.e. probably until the conclusion of those negotiations. After that, the agreements themselves would probably result in a solution that is also acceptable to the EU's partners.

“This means there is a good chance that there will be no fee increase at all for the Western Balkan countries”, said Plassnik. “In addition, today’s decisions provide, overall, good momentum for further progress in visa facilitation for the Western Balkan countries. We will continue to build on these decisions, in accordance with the Western Balkan focus of the Austrian Presidency of the EU, in the remaining two months of our Presidency”, she concluded.

 

Date: 27.04.2006