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    An interview with Austrian FM Ursula Plassnik

    Hürriyet Haber
    11.10.2005 - 21:16 | Son Güncelleme:

    On Friday, when I was in Vienna to attend the Donizetti opera "The Elixir of Love," I called the Hurriyet's Ankara representative to find out if she could arrange an appointment for me at the Foreign Ministry in Vienna. An hour later, my rendez-vouz was confirmed. Ursula Plassnik had gone to Moscow for the day. She returned in the evening to Vienna. I had an appointment with her one hour before the beginning of the opera. I had been in the Austrian Presidential Palace before. While the Austrian Foreign Ministry resembles the palace from the outside, the inside is completely different. It is decorated so minimalistly that we couldn't even find a colorful background for a picture. Foreign Minister Plassnik was wearing flat shoes, but even so, she was taller than me. She is an attractive woman, who exudes true friendliness. Here are some outtakes from our conversation together:

    (H) There are various conspiracy theories floating around. According to some of them, you were not holding out alone against Turkey, there were some other countries behind you giving you secret support. Is this true?
    Unfortunately, some people who were not in the know created and spread these theories. It saddens me. The incidents at the EU meetings happened in a much more reasonable and level-headed manner. Though we could have actually been much more self-possessed and level-headed.
    (H) What point did we arrive at at midnight on October 3?
    In the end, everyone realized this was a great starting point for Turkey. Accession talks have started, with the goal of full membership. We are being realistic on this subject. If we can't obtain this goal, we have to present alternatives. Because we are sure of one thing: As the EU, for the sake of our own interests, we want to form a much tighter partnership with Turkey. It is in the best interests of Europe to support the reform processes in Turkey.
    (H) How did you reach a solution? Who took a step backwards, you or Turkey?
    The question is not who is on Turkey's side and who isn't. This does not adequately explain the situation. The point we were arguing over was how to find the truest, most legal starting point. And this is the document which we all agreed upon. The accession talks have to start with legitimate foundations. Because these foundations will always be a reference point.
    (H) Coming to a classic question, some western publications wrote that Austria has kept alive some significant historical events in its subconscience. Have the Austrians really not forgotten the siege of Vienna?
    We all live in the 21st century.
    (H) I am just referring to what has been written.
    It's a good question. We need to answer this. Yes, we live in the 21st century. We are working for a shared future. We both have very rich and long histories. In addition to Austria and Turkey, many other countries in the EU also have long histories. No one denies history, nor should they. We have argued whether or not coffee belongs to Austria, and sieges of Vienna or Turkey should stay long in the past.
    (H) So what you mean is, let's forget about these things?
    Yes, we should stop these arguments, or at least make sure they don't go on any longer. Because they have a negative effect on us. We need to be realistic, and we have to look at today, because if we start to examine who fought against who in the past in Europe, it comes out after a short while that we have all fought against eachother. We are now in the EU, and we work in cooperation with the EU.

    (H) How do you see the role of the Turkish rooted citizens of Austria?
    We have around 250 thousand ethnically Turkish people living in Austria. They are happy here.
    (H) Do you think prejudgements against Turks have really been overcome in Austria?
    Who doesn't prejudge other people? The Turks have many prejudgements against us. We have to fight against such things, and it is an endless struggle. Look, even your newspaper admitted: if the accession talks had not started, there had been a first page cover planned in which we were to be compared to Hitler. This is a very heavy prejudgement, isn't it?
    (H) Are you pleased with the decision made on Monday night?
    Yes, I am pleased. Because everyone agreed it was a fair one. It was not an emotional decision, but rather a sensible one.
    (H) But still, there emerged the image that it was just you (Austria) against Turkey.
    Please take care with your words. I was never against Turkey. This was a stance for Europe. When the meetings started, some ministers from other countries said to me "There is no need for changes along the lines of what Austria is asking for."
    (H) And what did you say?
    I didn't accept. I had the right not to accept. We respect the right of every country, whether large or small, not to accept something.
    (H) How do you see the road ahead?
    There are 35 different sections to the accession talks. There will be many disappointments along the way. As Austrians, we went through many difficult times during our accession talks with the EU. This is normal. I have told the Austrian people not to be afraid of the start up of talks with Turkey, and I will continue to explain to them what is happening.
    (H) What should we be careful of during this period?
    We must not blame eachother. We have to not threaten eachother with "getting up and leaving." We must not use negative language against one another. We have to be reasonable and cool blooded. We will have to work together in the future, and we have to make sure that our people understand this.

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