Official Opening of the new Building of the Foreign Ministry
Address delivered by
Federal Minister Dr. Ursula Plassnik
on the occasion of the
Official Opening of the new Building
at Minoritenplatz 8
Vienna, 8 July 2005
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With horror and dismay we heard about the terrible attacks that rocked the City of London yesterday. The unanimous condemnation of these crimes by the entire world shows that we are all firmly decided to join forces and fight terrorism together, availing ourselves of all means our democratic societies have at their disposal under the rule of law. We will not give in to terrorism, the horror and fear. Our sympathy and solidarity is with the victims of these terror attacks. I would therefore like to ask you to join me in a minute of silent commemoration.
I thank you for this show of solidarity.
Ladies and gentlemen, today we are celebrating a family party of a special kind, the opening of our new premises and I am pleased that so many guests of honour and staff members have come to celebrate with us. I hope that it is agreeable to you if instead of welcoming each of you personally, I welcome you all collectively as friends and family members here with us. Unfortunately, the weatherman has thwarted our original plans, because we intended to celebrate in the internal courtyards of our new home - well, we have no control over the weather, but a few raindrops will not get us down either.
It is a particular pleasure for me to welcome no less then seven of my predecessors in office amongst our guests today. With your presence you are sending out a signal illustrating the close bonds that unite you with the Foreign Ministry and its staff. I am also very gratified that the three initiators and facilitators who made our new home possible are celebrating with us today: a warm welcome to Federal Chancellor Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel, the Governor of the Province of Lower Austria Dr. Erwin Pröll and EU Commissioner Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
The fact that the offices of the Lower Austrian Province Government were moved to St. Pölten made our own removal to these premises possible in the first place. The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wolfgang Schüssel, had the idea of uniting the offices of the Foreign Ministry which were housed in many different premises all over the city in one common location and he also laid the groundwork by taking the necessary decisions. Benita Ferrero-Waldner was responsible for the actual implementation. Without their initiative we would not be here today and we the beneficiaries would like to thank them very warmly for making this possible.
For a total of 286 years the official address of the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs was Ballhausplatz 2. Thus it was not without a certain feeling of sentimentality that we left the old premises. But the experience of the first few months has clearly shown us that the move has been worthwhile and that our new domicile has proved a real success. The fact that we are all together in one place has inspired us with new energy and given our work a fresh impetus - and this is naturally also due to the technical infrastructure, which has been decisively improved thanks to the state-of-the-art work stations. Those of our staff who cannot join us here in this room can nevertheless watch us via their computer screens. A warm hello to all of you!
The Foreign Ministry, which used to be distributed over six different locations in Vienna, has now been re-united in one place. Today we work under a single common roof, or to be more precise, it is actually two roofs connected by a bridge of glass. This bridge has also become a kind of visible symbol for the new Ministry for Foreign Affairs, for what we are doing - namely building bridges between Austria and the world.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank architect Gerhard Lindner, who has succeeded in masterfully combining the charm of the city centre of Vienna with the requirements of a modern foreign service and who has invested this building with a special flair, mixing old elements with new ones. I also thank the Museum of Ethnology for making available the exhibits which have visibly brought the world into this building.
Let me say a few words about the work we perform here at the Foreign Ministry in the current times. In actual fact, we work under two different guises, since the Foreign Ministry is at the same time the Ministry for European Affairs of the Republic of Austria. And from the experience we have gained over the last ten years, we know that this organisational structure has also withstood the practical test of time. We offer our expertise and the networks we have established around the world to all government departments, to the Austrian Parliament, to our Members of the European Parliament, whom I would also like to welcome in our midst today, to the Federal Provinces and to the Austrian population in general. We are a hub for the sharing and exchange of information, analyses, positions and concerns - and it is this which represents the actual strategic core function of this ministry. We are the mouthpiece, communicating what is important to Austria to the world, but we also share the responsibility for untiringly explaining the issues affecting Europe and the world at large and making them tangible to our compatriots.
Especially in the light of the scepticism currently being voiced by some with respect to Europe, I would like to say very clearly to all our employees that our activities here in Austria are just as important for our work as the tasks we perform beyond the Austrian borders. The fact of the matter is that in the future we will face even greater challenges here at home. So, let’s get to work and demonstrate our commitment to the task that Erwin Pröll described so vividly before, i.e. transforming the cons against Europe into pros for Europe. Many people are looking for somebody who will listen. They want somebody they can share their concerns and fears with. And it is their needs we want to cater for too, to the very best of our ability. As an initial step we have thus created a special service open to everybody: we have installed a platform for dialogue that can be accessed via the homepages of the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Chancellery. By clicking on "Europa hört zu" (Europe is listening) at Foreign Ministry or Federal Chancellery everybody can tell us what they expect from Europe, what they do not like about it and what kind of Europe they would like to see in the future. I would like to invite you all to make use of this service and to advertise it to others.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this ministry is filled with a young and dynamic spirit and we want to make this visible to the outside world, too. This is why we jointly came up with the idea of sending out a small but very deliberate signal to this end by asking the Europeans of today and tomorrow for their opinion. You can see the results here in front of you and above all in the corridors of our new domicile. More than 40 paintings decorate its walls, painted by children between eight and ten years of age. They have expressed their ideas on travelling, borders and the world - and I am very proud of the diverse nature of their works and the rich imaginative power they have demonstrated in their paintings.
I especially like the titles the young artists have given to their works, because they really do most tellingly illustrate our every-day activities at the Foreign Ministry. Let me just mention a few of them: "Die zwei Sonnen" (The Two Suns), "Wasser im Wald" (Water in the Woods), "Ein einsames Boot unter dem Regen" (A Solitary Boat in the Rain), but also "Die wilden Vulkane" (The Wild Volcanoes), "Omas Garten im Burgenland" (Grandma’s Garden in Burgenland), "Der Eiffelturm" (The Eiffel Tower), "Die chinesische Mauer" (The Great Wall of China), which one young artist painted brick for brick, and "Ein fröhlicher Tag am Mittelmeer" (A Happy Day on the Mediterranean). I would like to thank all the children who participated, headmistress Gabriele Grossebner of the Notre Dame de Sion primary school and the friends of the Leopold Museum for their excellent cooperation.
We really found it quite difficult to select those paintings we wish to award a prize to today. We are thus only doing so representatively: each of the paintings conveys a specific message and has its own peculiar charm. But as representatives of all the others let me now ask two of the young artists and the headmistress to come over here to me. First Simon Dietz, who painted the powerful work "Die zwei Sonnen" (The Two Suns).
Then I would like to ask Marie Schneider to join me here on the floor. Marie painted "Ein einsames Boot unter dem Regen" (A Solitary Boat in the Rain).
Last, but not least, I would like to especially thank Wolfgang Loibl and Peter Niesner, who returned today from an official trip to Abuja. These two gentlemen have borne the main organisational burden during the construction and moving periods. They have also made sure that we are optimally equipped and prepared for our forthcoming EU Presidency.
One gentleman cannot be with us today, but he sends his warmest greetings - our newly appointed State Secretary Hans Winkler, who is currently in Dubrovnik on my behalf.
And concluding, I would like to thank all our colleagues, the 585 here in Vienna and the 749 all around the world. I hope that you enjoy the new premises, and I wish you good health, strong nerves and confidence but also an awareness of the shared feeling of togetherness and the bonds that unite us. Together we will succeed! Thank you.