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Friday, 10 December 2004

Working visit of the President of the Republic of Austria to Poland

On 10 December 2004, President of the Republic of Austria, Heinz Fisher, paid a working visit to Poland at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

After the welcoming ceremony, President of the Republic of Poland held a meeting with the President of the Republic of Austria.
President Fischer congratulated President Aleksander Kwaśniewski on his involvement and effective mediation in negotiations aimed at resolving the Ukrainian conflict and stressed that in his opinion these actions serve well not only the interests of Ukraine but of Europe at large as well.

President Aleksander Kwaśniewski invited the Austrian President to take part in celebrations commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Next, the Presidents assumed chairmanship of plenary talks between Polish and Austrian delegations.

The agenda of the plenary talks covered issues relating to current development of bilateral relations and pertaining to European policy. Both Presidents expressed a very positive assessment of the development of Polish-Austrian relations in the political, economic and cultural domains as well as of the first eight months of Poland’s membership in the European Union. President Aleksander Kwaśniewski emphasized that social support for Poland’s membership has grown stronger since the accession than it had ever been before. Both stated that they see the need to extend the scope of Polish-Austrian youth exchange schemes and to enhance cooperation between scientific and cultural institutions of the respective countries. With reference to European issues, the delegations exchanged views regarding the feasibility of shortening, by the Austrian side, the transitional period of labor market restrictions applying to citizens from the new EU countries and on the subject of ratification of Constitutional Treaty by the EU member states.

Discussed were prospects for further enlargement of the European Community by new countries, such as: Rumania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Turkey, and in that context the European aspirations of Ukraine were also duly highlighted. The situation in Iraq and the Middle East also featured on the agenda.

On the conclusion of the talks, the Presidents held a press conference.

Addressing the audience, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski said:

First of all I want to say that it gives me great pleasure to host in Warsaw Heinz Fisher not only as the newly elected President of Austria but also as a personal friend of long standing. We met many years ago when I was engaged in setting up the “Socialdemocracy” party in Poland and later on several occasions – also as President – in his capacity as a member of parliament; in the meantime, Heinz Fisher was a Speaker of Austrian Parliament, today we meet as presidents. And thus our meeting other than the official has also this very personal dimension.

In our shared assessment Polish-Austrian bilateral relations are excellent, political dialogue is vibrant, trade exchange this current year shows clear signs of growth, particularly on the side of Polish exports. The Austrian investments in Poland amount to 1.2 billion USD; in the ranking order of foreign investors Austria has moved up from the 17th to the 12th place. We are making progress developing scientific and cultural cooperation and expanding the scope of youth exchange schemes though we believe there is still much room for improvement in those fields. We also owe Austria words of gratitude for assisting with the organization of Polish days in Austria in 2003 that seem to have struck a chord with the Austrian public and have done much, I believe, to make Poland, the good old neighbor of Austria, a more familiar acquaintance.

We talked about the European Union. We are convinced that the enlargement the EU was a very important and, it would appear today, opportune decision. This can be gauged if only in the shifts in the attitude of Poles who, after the first few months of our presence in the EU, notwithstanding all the black scenarios that were painted, show an ever growing interest in and content with our EU membership, as well as – which is a source of great personal satisfaction – progressively stronger inclination to support the adoption of the Constitutional Treaty in a referendum. We also talked about further enlargement of the Union. We share the same position as regards opening the door to Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia. We talked about Turkey, about the need to commence negotiations. In keeping with the EU decisions, we should all have a wide debate to see how we envisage the future EU when many new countries, to mention just Turkey or Ukraine, will have attained a point where they meet the structure’s membership criteria.

We devoted much time to Ukraine. I told about our mediation efforts and I trust we shall jointly follow closely the ballot on 26 December. I asked the President to send more observers to Ukraine. We also exchanged views on international issues – on Iraq, the Middle East – and again I want to affirm that as regards these, the positions of Poland and Austria are very close indeed. We are interested in seeing the peace process advance in both the regions and we attach much hope to the January elections in Iraq. Poland, as I have repeatedly declared in the past, does want the stabilization mission to bring about peace and equilibrium in Iraq so that within a reasonable period of time we can first cut back and in due time withdraw all our troops from Iraq, making sure that the withdrawal comes after stability has been restored and the objectives of our mission have been accomplished.

As regards the Middle East, it is our shared view with President Fischer that the parties should take up again the course set out in the adopted ‘road map’ and that every endeavor should be made for this concept of peace to prevail. And as we recall, the ‘road map’ was not only adopted by Israel and Palestine, but was approved by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. We should strive to make it a reality, to bring it back not only into the realm of discussion but of implementation as well.

I want once again to express my thanks for the long years of cooperation with Mr. Heinz Fischer, for his support, at all times underpinned by great affection, for Poland – and I want to return these sentiments. You have here, in Poland, good friends, people who keenly desire to develop Polish-Austrian cooperation in various domains in the conviction that it can also bring benefits to the EU and, in the larger scheme of things, to the whole region and the world at large.

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