Ambassadors Conference 2003
Check against delivery
Address by the
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
on the occasion of the
Vienna, 1 September 2003
First of all, I would like to welcome you all very warmly to this year’s Ambassadors’ Conference and thank you for your numerous participation, all the more since this is a voluntary meeting.
Last year we endeavoured to elaborate an orientation for the course of Austrian foreign policy against the background of the huge global political changes taking place. I believe that this orientation has been of good service for our work and that together we have succeeded in steering a secure and reliable foreign policy course for Austria.
The orientation we defined last year is still valid and thus in principle remains the world view I take as the basis for Austrian foreign policy. In my speech I will therefore confine myself to picking out some topical aspects to which I attribute particular importance, i.e. the future of Europe, our relations to our neighbours within the EU, the Middle East, and especially transatlantic relations as a core element of our security policy considerations.
A glance at today’s global political landscape tells us that the situation has not become any easier. We are living at a time in which the amount of security we can offer people has become the yardstick for measuring the success of foreign policy.
Nobody is safe from the new dangers, be it as tourists in the Sahara or in holiday paradises such as Bali, Tunisia, Morocco and India, to name but a few of the most recent examples. These threats likewise affect governmental and business institutions, private and religious places, and also UN officers who are doing all they can to help, like Sergio Viera de Mello and his co-workers who were killed in Baghdad. I know that many of you had friends and acquaintances among the victims, some even knew Sergio personally and valued him and his work as much as I did.
As far as we know, Sergio’s last wish, which he managed to express although he was mortally wounded, was that the United Nations should continue their engagement in Iraq. I am convinced that the United Nations will fulfil this humanitarian wish – and not only in Iraq. Austria has spoken out in favour of the UN involvement in Iraq and will reiterate her support vis-à-vis the Secretary-General and the UN General Assembly at its upcoming meeting. In a world where there are massive threats to security it is particularly indispensable that the United Nations play an important role.
These tragic events also show that diplomatic work is becoming increasingly dangerous. At the same time, however, it becomes equally clear how much the modern world needs diplomacy and diplomats, although their task is sometimes difficult and they have to cope with many a drawback. Without the efforts undertaken by diplomats from countries and international organisations devoted to reliable policymaking based on confidence building, the entire world would drown in a flood of chaos and insecurity.
Something else has also become apparent as a result of the developments we have seen during the last few years and months, and particularly since the global political changes following the attacks of 11 September 2001 – namely that our concept, which is based on a very comprehensive global security approach, is correct.
Austria is a safe country, both internally and in terms of its relations with the rest of the world. Our task consists in helping to maintain this high degree of security and stability and to ensure that Europe exports security instead of importing insecurity.
It is in this spirit that I should like to make the following observations:
It remains an undisputable fact that by enlarging the EU we are making an invaluable contribution to enhancing security, stability and welfare on our continent. Austria, which has so far already benefited from the process of EU enlargement and her relations to her Central and Eastern European neighbours, will now shift to the centre of the enlarged Europe. We negotiated well and the ratification process is already underway across Europe. The new Member States will join the EU on the first of May. The EU enlargement has been and will remain a priority of Austrian foreign policy. In the present company I would like to take the liberty of describing what we have achieved so far as a successful chapter in Austrian foreign policy – and once again I want to thank all those who were directly or indirectly involved in this process.
But this does not mean that we can rest on our laurels. On the contrary, we are now called upon to roll up our sleeves and undertake every effort to make the EU enlargement a success.
However, this requires substantial efforts at all levels; with respect to cross-border regional policy, for instance, it means the continued willingness of business to maintain its level of commitments, and it also involves cooperation at the cultural level and a mental opening towards our new/old partners which has not yet been fully realised within the EU at large.
At the foreign policy level the Regional Partnership has proved an important instrument which has lifted the cooperation with our neighbours to a new level (in the fields of security policy, in education policy, in business and in culture). It is increasingly proving to be the first point of reference for Austria’s regional and European policies. A mere glance at Austria’s key foreign trade figures reveals that this policy has undoubtedly been right. What will be important in this context is a more precise definition of the joint interests which result from the strong economic interconnections, the historical ties, the geographic position and the more or less similar size of the partnership countries and their implementation within the general European context.
Hence we used the meeting of the Regional Partnership countries’ foreign ministers held on 4 July in the Moravian castle Buchlovice at the invitation of my Czech counterpart Svoboda to deliberate in depth on the Convention on the Future of Europe and the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference. Before that I met my counterparts in May for a first preparatory meeting in Brussels before the General Affairs Council meeting.
These are the first important steps towards coordination among the Regional Partners in European policy matters. In addition to this, an open and pragmatic cooperation between the Regional Partnership countries and the Visegrad Group would also be conceivable from my point of view.
But this process of harmonisation and coordination also requires the relevant preparation and accompanying measures on the part of the respective diplomatic representations, both in the Partnership countries and in the other EU Member States.
The enlargement of the EU goes hand in hand with the deepening of the Union. The reform of the EU and her institutions currently tops Austria’s foreign and European policy agenda, because the way the EU functions internally and the role to be assumed by the Union in the future international interplay of powers will depend on the outcome of this debate.
What will the autumn bring with respect to the debate on the future of Europe?
The draft prepared by the European Convention on “a Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe“ was handed over to the President of the European Council in Rome on 18 July. The Intergovernmental Conference which will deal with the constitutional treaty will convene on 4 October. The proceedings for the Intergovernmental Conference will be discussed already this weekend at the Gymnich meeting in Garda from 5 to 6 September. Although the general goal is to undo the draft treaty package elaborated by the Commission as little as possible, we do believe that certain improvements will be necessary.
With a view to a successful outcome of the relevant negotiations at the Intergovernmental Conference it will be necessary to strengthen the alliances with like-minded countries built up in the Convention and to define joint positions on important issues and questions. Indeed, a meeting of the potential group of 17 like-minded states is being held in Prague today at the invitation of the Czechs.
We have said that the Convention did some excellent work. It is in fact a far-reaching compromise in which many Austrian concerns were also incorporated. Nevertheless we do not regard all the provisions as coherent and well-balanced.
The provisions we are content with are
- the uniform legal personality and the dissolution of the pillars,
- the integration of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights,
- clearer provisions for the division of competences, enhanced control of the principle of subsidiarity through the involvement of national parliaments,
- simplification of the legal instruments and proceedings,
- expansion of the European Parliament’s co-decision powers and the fact that decisions within the Council will as a rule require a qualified majority,
- the fact that the regional and municipal dimensions of Europe are being recognized and taken into greater consideration,
- the creation of the office of European Minister for Foreign Affairs – and thus more uniform and efficient action of the Union in its external affairs,
- more efficient decision-making mechanisms in the fields of asylum and integration.
What is also important in this context is that a European External Action Service will be created to assist the new Minister for Foreign Affairs – avoiding any duplication of administrative structures and without weakening the Commission. This External Action Service will be composed of members of the European Commission, the Council Secretariat and diplomats dispatched by the Member States. The EU Minister for Foreign Affairs will wear two hats, in so far as he/she will act as Vice-President of the Commission and report to the Council of Foreign Ministers in matters relating to the CFSP.
So which elements do we consider problematic?
- The federal government will not decide on Austria’s definite position at the Intergovernmental Conference until the end of September. For the time being, therefore, I would only like to say this much:
- The thing we find least acceptable is the planned differentiation between Commissioners who are entitled to vote and so-called non-voting Commissioners.
- The election modalities (what is important to us is equality among Member States) and the competences granted to the elected President of the European Council (competes with the Foreign Minister in representing the EU abroad; risk of creating an inter-governmental structure to parallel the Commission)
- The European Council as an independent body (the issue of legal protection against its binding decisions).
- Design of the rotation in the composition of the Councils of Ministers on an equal footing – How will the horizontal coherence (between the Council formations) and the vertical coherence (Council-Coreper-Council working groups) of the Presidency be secured?
- Definition of the qualified majority without putting the smaller and medium-sized Member States at a disadvantage.
The preparation for the Intergovernmental Conference will therefore rank high on our working agenda from autumn through to spring. I am thus taking this early opportunity to ask the heads of missions in the EU Member States to cooperate as closely as possible with headquarters and for their support in lobbying for Austria’s interests.
Another important aspect is that preparations for Austria’s EU Presidency in the first half of 2006 are already underway. It is clear that we need a sound basis for planning as advance payments are already due and organisational provisions and other preparations are becoming necessary. Thus it is of paramount importance that our term in Presidency follows the current pattern, even if the ratification process – and this cannot be ruled out – should be completed shortly before.
the ongoing process of EU enlargement and the elaboration of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe are two essential topics on our European policy agenda, but there are many other important issues:
The next huge opportunity for Austrian foreign policy is again opening up right on our doorstep, namely in South-East Europe. We explicitly support the negotiations with Romania and Bulgaria and fully back Croatia’s application for EU membership.
Besides, Turkey will also receive our support on her road towards reform. In late autumn 2004 this country’s progress will be re-evaluated by the Union and then a decision will be taken on the potential opening of negotiations.
We will continue our active involvement in the pre-accession process for the other South-East European countries, inter alia under the auspices of the Stability Pact and the revised and improved agenda of the Stabilisation and Association Process. We know that these countries have set themselves the goal of joining the EU and we therefore support them in their efforts. But it is up to them to make the best of this support – which occasionally includes implementing some potentially very painful reforms. This approach represents the best contribution we can make to enhancing our own country’s level of security vis-à-vis a region which was ravaged by war and persecution until only a few years ago, and to protecting ourselves against the otherwise emerging new threats like corruption, migration, organised crime, trafficking in human beings, arms and drugs.
The assassination of Prime Minister Dzindjic and the still unstable situation in Kosovo and Macedonia dramatically illustrate just how precarious the situation can still be. Within the framework of the EU, bilaterally, in her international cooperation with the United Nations, the OSCE and NATO, and not least through the active personal involvement of numerous compatriots (as diplomats, police officers, soldiers, development workers and members of NGOs), Austria has made an extraordinarily important contribution to promoting security in the Balkans – and we will continue this policy.
During Austria’s EU Presidency we already suggested that with a view to stability in its surroundings the enlarging EU should increasingly direct its attention towards its “new“ neighbours. It is encouraging that the EU has taken up this suggestion – albeit with a little delay and under a different heading, namely Wider Europe.
Beginning with the Ukraine and Moldova (Belarus could follow one day, provided that the required conditions are created) the Wider Europe concept includes enhancing the quality of the political dialogue, more cooperation in preventing risks to security and conflicts, perspectives for a gradual participation in the EU’s internal market, and cooperation in matters relating to migration and in combating drugs and crime. Not least as a result of Austria’s instigation, the Ukraine, which I visited only a few months ago, and Moldova were able to participate for the first time as full members in the European Conference held in Athens on 17 April this year. In line with the idea of a "vocation européenne", these countries are also of substantial importance in terms of security policy.
In this context I would like to underline the significant role played by regional organisations like the OSCE and the Council of Europe in promoting peace and stability by preventing conflicts and by nation building in the regions bordering the EU. It is encouraging to note that Austrians hold leading offices in many of these organisations, for instance Walter Schwimmer, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Peter Schieder, the President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and Ambassador Strohal as Director of the ODHIR.
Another important aspect on the road to stability in Europe is the further development of a strategic partnership between the EU and Russia.
At the summit between the EU and the Russian Federation held in St. Petersburg this May, four so-called “areas“ were programmatically defined in order to reach this goal: a common economic area (the goal being a free trade zone), as well as domestic and external security, research and education areas. Relations with Russia are also relevant to the European security strategy, which is currently being defined and which I will come back to a bit later on.
Among the neighbours of the EU are also the southern Mediterranean countries. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership formed by the EU and the Mediterranean countries plays a major role in promoting development aimed at peace and stability with the Union’s neighbours in this region.
Parallel to the intensification of political dialogue, an essential economic goal being pursued under this Partnership is the establishment of a free trade zone between the EU and the southern Mediterranean countries.
Some of the most explosive sources of conflict are located in this region (I only have to say the words "Middle East"), resulting in dangerous threats to security such as migration, drug trafficking and terrorism.
Under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and within the United Nations I have advocated and supported the Dialogue among Cultures. With the aim of involving the general public as much as possible in this dialogue we have organised media seminars and will continue these efforts this November. In this spirit the first European Conference of Imams, the religious scholars of Islam, was organised in the first European human rights capital, the Styrian capital of Graz, this June. The importance of tolerance was also emphasised in the final declaration adopted at this conference, which was hosted and directed in a very circumspect and prudent manner by the Islamic Religious Community in Austria.
In this context I should like to add a few remarks on the Middle East, a region which is of particular significance for European security and in the fight against terrorism.
Let me start by sharing some encouraging news with you:
The re-establishment of full diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel is a success attributable to the consistent policy of coming to terms with Austria’s past pursued by the federal government and a well-balanced foreign policy based on confidence building in general. The fact that we succeeded in achieving this aim is particularly encouraging for me. The goal I have set myself now is a renewed deepening of the dialogue between Austria and Israel and a further intensification of the bilateral relations at all levels. Austria is willing to engage in an open, honest cooperation in the interest of both our countries.
In the Middle East Peace Process there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement based on a swift and complete implementation of the Road Map. Any use of violence, like the bomb attacks in the middle of August and the targeted Israeli attacks aimed at eliminating Palestinian activists, also contravenes the ceasefire agreed on 29 June 2003. The clear message sent by the EU as a partner in the Middle East Quartet is that both parties must uphold their commitment to a negotiated peace settlement which must not be obstructed by radical groups.
The Middle East Peace Process is once again on the verge of collapse – and this must not be allowed to happen!
The political and economic reconstruction of Iraq depends on the fastest possible improvement of the security situation and the living conditions of the Iraqi people, and this will require further substantial and concerted efforts on the part of the international community in the years to come. The international basis for the efforts aimed at reconstruction in Iraq was created by UN Security Council Resolution 1483 and expanded by Resolution 1500 welcoming the establishment of an Iraqi governing council on 13 July 2003, as well as by the decision to set up a UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.
Austria has always stressed that all reconstruction efforts in Iraq must be based on the central elements of Iraq's territorial integrity and sovereignty and the Iraqi people’s right to self-determination. Austria was one of the first countries to actively assist the country in the immediate aftermath of the war, our efforts including
- the treatment of wounded Iraqi children, whom I literally flew out of the country myself, in Austrian hospitals,
- the project to establish a centre for war-traumatised children which we launched together with Slovenia and Jordan under the auspices of the Human Security Network, and
- the Adopt a Hospital project in Iraq which was launched at the coalition’s request and in close cooperation with NGOs.
In this connection I should not forget to draw your attention to an aspect which is of the utmost importance to me, namely that the protection of and respect for human rights is indispensable for global security.
There can be no doubt that states which respect international human rights standards are better capable of securing peace, promoting economic development, fighting international terrorism and crime, avoiding humanitarian crises and improving the global environment. In terms of security policy, active human rights policy therefore lies in our own fundamental national interest. In this spirit Austria supports the rule of law and national accountability via her development cooperation programmes, the international financial institutions, within the framework of the OSCE and the EU and as a member of the International Criminal Court.
In practical terms I used my presidency of the Human Security Network to draw the global public’s interest to two particularly gross violations of the rights of children in armed conflicts, namely in North Uganda and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Another important instrument aimed at the promotion of international human rights and fundamental democratic freedoms to which Austria has made a specific contribution is human rights education.
The special importance of the human rights education manual which was developed under my presidency of the Human Security Network and adopted by the ministers at the conference in Graz this May lies in the inter-cultural approach taken in order to achieve the goals pursued by the universal human right instruments. This manual at the same time represents the first basis for training in human rights education to be used around the globe.
UNCESCO has just agreed to have it translated into French, and other languages are to follow. Moreover the manual was presented to the foreign ministers of the ASEM member states in Bali and I myself also presented it on the occasion of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership meeting (Barcelona Process).
At their Graz conference the HSN members also decided to launch a programme aimed at training qualified personnel for field missions in crisis areas. I successfully advocated the incorporation of this training programme for children’s rights in connection with the operation plan for the EU-led Operation Artemis to Ituri in the DR of Congo. The fact that the protection of children has been taken into consideration in the draft directives on the protection of civilians in EU-led operations represents another important step in this context.
Please also note that the reports delivered by the EU heads of missions on the human rights situation play an important role in supporting a coherent and uniform human rights policy within the EU.
A very central chapter of my deliberations I have reserved for the end of the political part of my address. I think that we could then pass directly on to the discussion, as this is a very central issue of our Common Foreign and Security Policy and because the issue has been attracting much topical interest: Transatlantic relations.
The past few months, due above all, but not only, to the Iraq War, have witnessed growing tension between Europe and the United States, giving rise to the impression of a rift in the Transatlantic Partnership.
I feel something is missing on both sides of the Atlantic, namely an open discussion about the future opportunities of transatlantic relations and how to shape them. There is so much that connects the two continents, first and foremost the endeavour to create and maintain peace and democracy throughout the world. We must not get bogged down in unresolved issues of the past and present, much rather, we must continue on our joint path and pool our forces in the interest of enhancing global safety and stability. What appears indispensable to me is that we all strive for more mutual recognition and respect and make a serious effort towards a better understanding of the other side’s motives.
This attitude – and I am very glad about this – has been gradually gaining ground. Austria’s position was from the very beginning that of a reasonable middle-line approach both within the EU and in issues regarding transatlantic relations. There were days and weeks when one could almost have felt a little lonely in this stance, but I have always been convinced that this is the right approach. Because only if the US and Europe jointly represent their interests, which (being peace, democracy and the rule of law) are not so very different after all, will the world become a more peaceful one. We must not allow ourselves to be divided by radicalism, regardless of where it comes from. As the Alpbach Political Symposium once again showed last weekend, it is very important that the efforts to promote a concerted approach move back into the foreground, and that both sides become aware of how important this is.
The Iraq crisis, despite all its imminent dangers, is also a chance and a turning point, giving rise to greater awareness of the fact that Europe and the US ultimately depend on each other – and this dependence works both ways.
The relations between the EU and the US are characterised by close, historically evolved links and interdependencies in many areas, with economic relations of course playing a particularly important role.
- Merchandise trade between the EU and the United States amounts to about one billion euros per day;
- Europe is the US’s largest foreign investor, accounting for EUR 750 billion.
- EU investments in Texas alone exceed those of Japan in all 50 US States.
We might define four golden rules to govern our relations with the United States:
- Europe has no reason to hide; on the contrary, it has a lot to offer to the superpower USA.
- In its relations with the US, Europe should not let itself be tempted into “unproductive rivalries” or stir up anti-American emotions. Defining or profiling itself as an opposite pole to the US would be utterly counterproductive for Europe.
- It is high time we returned to a true dialogue, even on policy towards Iraq, the policy to adopt in the case of Iran, weapons of mass destruction and the basic principles of military intervention. The Middle East Quartet, by the way, is quite a useful example.
- Europe is called upon to strive towards greater unity. The institutional reforms within the EU may well support this process. Europe will become a more credible and stronger partner for the US to the extent that we strengthen cooperation within the EU boundaries.
Naturally, there are limits to solidarity. Austria, for example, has always supported a multilateral approach to issues of common interest, and I have repeatedly stressed that the principal responsibility for maintaining global peace lies with the UN Security Council.
The frustrating situation of Europeans taking contradictory stances, especially with regard to the Iraq issue, and the prospect of a Union of 25 Member States, which may make it even more difficult to achieve agreement on foreign and security policy issues, prompted the foreign ministers of the EU Member States, at the Gymnich Meeting in Rhodes at the beginning of May this year, to commission EU High Representative for the CFSP Javier Solana with drawing up a list of the Union’s security interests.
Solana’s paper entitled "A Secure Europe in a Better World“, presented at the Thessaloniki European Council, is based on a broad security concept and deals extensively with new threats like terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, "failed states“ and organised crime. It proposes three strategic objectives for the European Union, namely extending the zone of security around Europe, strengthening the multilateral institutions and the UN Charta-based international order and an active approach to countering the threats. "Pre-emptive engagement“ in tackling new threats with a mixture of different instruments of prevention, including coercive measures if necessary, can help to avoid more serious problems in the future.
The Union’s diverse resources for external action, such as international assistance programmes, political dialogue as well as civilian and military instruments of crisis management, should be bundled to achieve the highest possible efficiency.
All these considerations are to be integrated into a EU security strategy by the end of the year. I have proposed that the following items should also be included in this strategy:
- Lessons learned with regard to European security from the wars in South-East Europe.
- Emphasising the principal responsibility of the UN Security Council for international peace and security.
- Developing a strategic partnership between the EU and Russia in the interest of European stability.
- Including Central Asia and the Caucasus Region in the list of regional conflict areas.
- Consistent EU advocation of universalising the major weapon control regimes.
The development of a EU security strategy is an important step towards defining the Union’s common foreign and security policy interests. But a strategy paper alone, or changes in the institutional structure of the EU (e.g. creating the office of an European Minister for Foreign Affairs) will not suffice to make these common interests the central tenet of EU foreign policy action.
Developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy will necessarily be a gradual process aided and abetted by common positive experience (e.g. successful crisis management) and frustrating events (e.g. the EU’s helplessness in the face of the successive wars in former Yugoslavia, the Iraq crises, etc.).
Thank you for your attention!