Commemoration of the 50-Year Anniversary of the State Treaty
"50-Year Anniversary of the State Treaty"
Statement by Federal Minister Dr. Ursula Plassnik
Upper Belvedere, 15 May 2005
Dear representatives of the Signatory States,
In this commemorative hour I would like to thank you on behalf of the Austrian people; I would like to thank you for your presence here today and for your words of support and recognition.
With your presence and your words you have honoured our country and its people, who in the shadow of a dreadful historical burden of shared responsibility did not give up hope. Who worked with courage and confidence for the future of this country - for a future in freedom and dignity, for a responsible future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world invested in us in 1955: politically, economically, and above all in terms of trust and confidence: the world believed in Austria - and most of all, you, the four Signatory Powers of May 15, believed in us.
Our parents and grandparents dealt with this show of confidence you extended to them in a responsible manner. Supported by your assistance they reconstructed and built up a country which soon found its place among the community of states - as early as December 1955 Austria became a member of the United Nations, and one year later she joined the Council of Europe. Today Austria is a country which enjoys general respect; in fact, she is even envied by many.
When we talk about the "Fathers of the State Treaty", we do so in the awareness that both the achievement of freedom and the re-construction of this country were not only due to the "fathers", but also to the "mothers". In these difficult initial years, the women of this country accomplished incredible achievements. In this solemn hour we would thus like to express our deepest and most heartfelt thanks to them.
We, the generation who had not immediately experienced this anxious hoping and waiting in the time leading up to the 15th of May, but who had no first-hand experience of the euphoria of that day either, were privileged to grow up in a country which was already peaceful and no longer divided. We regard the trust you extended to our country at the time as a mandate to show and actively lend confidence, trust and support to others, too - and thus to contribute our utmost to reconciliation and understanding. As neighbours in Europe, as partners in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Austria has proved herself worthy of the gift she received on 15 May 1955: over the last five decades we have dispatched 60,000 peacekeepers all around the globe, we host the third UN headquarters and the OSCE, we have been and will remain a refuge for many. More than 500,000 people have been naturalized since then.
What were then the occupying and signatory powers have meanwhile become our partners, indeed our friends. Today we are bound by a very special bond of trust and mutual esteem. Together with them we are now joining forces to tackle the huge challenges which lie ahead.
The fact of the matter is that the re-construction of Europe cannot be said to have been completed as long as there are still peoples and people on this continent who cannot take freedom, safety and security for granted, people whose everyday lives are still tormented by fratricidal war, destruction and mistrust.
Vienna is geographically much closer to these disadvantaged parts of Europe than other European cities. For a long time now, very deep and substantial connecting ties have led from here, from Vienna, to this Europe - long-standing links we are now called upon to make use of.
Austria herself received help; now we are lending a helping hand to others! Within the European Union, together with the United States and with Russia.
The European Union has developed a unique fund of experience in terms of the peaceful transformation of entire societies. It has done so in response to a history of bloodshed and conflict which dominated this small continent over centuries. This experience has taught us to overcome contrasts by economic means, based on the solidarity of facts. It teaches us how to live with and deal with diversity. It is the bond that enables us to live together in lasting peace.
Therefore the place of all South-East European states - irrespective of how difficult and painful their recent past might have been - can only lie within the European Union. Respect for human rights and the development of a stable democracy are the foundations for a future rich in opportunities, for Moldova, the Ukraine and Belarus too. Because in the final analysis, self-liberation is the most permanent, albeit also the most painful kind of liberation.
Austria will assist them on their way. Committed partnership and neighbourly closeness are our responsibility.
But the huge challenges that lie ahead of us - the European Union, Russia and the United States - are not limited to this continent: we are jointly undertaking efforts aimed at reforming the United Nations, for instance, or at finding a peaceful solution for the Middle East. Together we are doing our best to alleviate the plight of poverty, exclusion and sickness in the world. Jointly we are fighting to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to promote disarmament, to prevent conflicts, to protect the environment and create a culture guided by the rule of law.
Because the clear message signalled by the State Treaty is that a close cooperation between Europe, Russia and the USA can ultimately resolve apparently insuperable problems for the benefit of all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The birth of this new Austria - but also of the new Europe - was marked by confidence, trust and the readiness to seize the opportunities offered. Back then, the driving force that guided all our actions was Austria’s independence. Today’s youth take freedom from external rule for granted, and this is good and right. But we should nevertheless listen more attentively when they ask about their prospects in a largely regulated world. When they ask: How can we bring more justice to the world? How can we protect and safeguard the environment? How can we distribute the wealth we have achieved more fairly? The longing to do something positive has remained - it is only wearing a different guise.
These young people will shape the next phase of the European and global peace project. They will have to live their dreams and define their freedom themselves. They see themselves as both Austrians and Europeans, having effortlessly interwoven both identities. All the opportunities Europe offers are open to them.
If there is one thing we can pass on to this young generation from the experience we have gained over the last fifty years, it is this: confidence and trust.
Embrace the fact that every single one of you can make a difference!
That each and every one of you can make his or her own contribution, at home and in the world at large.
Have the courage to trust in yourselves and in others too!
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen!