Wien, 9. July 2003 Press release

50 years of diplomatic relations: "Austria and Thailand as gateways for economic cooperation and investments in Europe and Asia"

09.07.2003

Ferrero-Waldner in favour proposes to set up an inter-ministerial task force to bolster economic relations.

Vienna, 9 July 2003 - Only two months after the foreign ministers' meeting within the context of the Human Security Network Conference held in Graz in May, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner was able to receive her Thai counterpart Surakiart Sathirathai for bilateral talks in Vienna.

"The excellent bilateral relationship between Austria and Thailand rests on four pillars: politics, the economy, the sciences and culture," the Foreign Minister said at a press conference after the working meeting. As Ferrero-Waldner stated, the 50-year anniversary of Austrian-Thai diplomatic relations was to be taken as an occasion to open up a new chapter in bilateral economic relations, initiating new strategies. Austria and Thailand view each other as gateways/door openers for economic cooperation and investments in Europe and Asia. "We have agreed to set up an inter-ministerial task force consisting of experts from the ministries, the Chamber of Commerce and the industrial sector to bolster up our relationship in many different areas." 80 Austrian companies are already benefiting today from the strong dynamics of economic growth in Thailand and infrastructure investments. According to statements by the Thai Foreign Minister Sathirathai, Thailand has been evolving into an "investment hub" in Asia, not least thanks to the conclusion of a large number of free trade agreements with neighbouring countries.

In addition, the two foreign ministers dealt with issues regarding further activities in their cooperation within the Human Security Network (HSN). Thailand will present the results achieved under Austrian chairmanship (2002-2003) to the Asian partner countries within the context of the ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bali at the end of July. The intention is to create greater awareness in Asia of Austria's successes such as the Manual on Human Rights Education and the strategy paper on the improvement of the situation of children in armed conflicts.

Asked about the current situation in Myanmar, the two foreign ministers expressed their concern with regard to the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi and called for the immediate release of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. The government of Myanmar had to be convinced that democratic reform is absolutely necessary.