Winkler: "Participation in Chad mission underlines our commitment to peace"
State Secretary Hans Winkler before Parliament’s Main Committee
Vienna, 9 November 2007 - "Bloody conflicts, displacement, misery and hardship can often only be ended by international peace missions. For decades now, Austria has seen itself as a loyal partner of the United Nations and the EU. We have therefore always participated pro-actively in joint international peace missions," stated State Secretary Hans Winkler today before Parliament’s Main Committee, which approved Austria’s participation in 14 missions, including Chad, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territories, Rafah, Kosovo and Cyprus.
"The seriousness of our commitment to peace and security is reflected both by the large bandwidth and the frequency of Austria’s participation," stated Winkler. "The Western Balkans are and continue to be our first priority. But we all know that the developments in Africa are having an increasing impact on Europe. Stronger international integration - including Africa - calls for a partial realignment of the security and defence policy pursued by both Europe and Austria," continued the State Secretary.
Winkler pointed out that Austria had been participating in peace operations in Africa within the framework of international organisations since the beginning of the sixties. "Dispatching a contingent of the Austrian Armed Forces to Chad is a temporary humanitarian operation based on a UN mandate for the protection of approximately half a million people. Peacekeeping also comprises many important civilian components required to safeguard the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons and establish the conditions for their return. Impartiality as well as a coherent deployment closely coordinated with the competent partners are indispensable preconditions for any participation by our soldiers in international peace missions," affirmed Winkler.
Some 1,200 Austrians are currently active within the framework of UN and EU peace missions throughout the world. "We were able to reduce the number of Austrian troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina on account of the improved security situation there. What seems advisable is to increase the Austrian contingent in Kosovo. With some 600 soldiers Austria will provide the largest contingent among non-NATO members," said the State Secretary, regarding this as a sign of the international acknowledgment of the commitment and high qualifications of Austria’s soldiers.
Winkler stressed that Austria would continue to dispatch police officers to Bosnia and Herzegovina, their main task being to help build efficient structures for the fight against organised crime. Likewise, within the framework of current peace efforts Austrian experts will continue to make an important contribution to the reform of the Palestinian police and criminal law next year.
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