Vienna, 21 October 2004 - Austria's new Foreign Minister Dr. Ursula Plassnik today delivered her inaugural statement to the National Council on the foreign policy tasks and objectives of her forthcoming period in office.
"Austria has steered a successful foreign policy course over the last decades and continues to do so today - a course that has brought our country security, stability and wealth", emphasised Plassnik at the start of her address. "Continuity and trust" would therefore continue to be of central importance for Austria's future foreign policy.
The Foreign Minister went on to underline the benefits that Austria and her citizens had derived from almost ten years of membership in the EU: "We have a common currency, we have a common European area of security within which borders can be freely crossed. It was actually in my day-to-day work as ambassador to Switzerland that I again realised what it means not to be a member of the EU: from having to change money and constantly converting currencies in your mind to showing your passport at the border and thinking about how much you are allowed to buy and take home with you. These are precisely the moments when we truly become aware of the advantages we derive from EU membership in our everyday lives." Furthermore, Austria's economy had also benefited greatly from the country's membership in the EU.
All in all, continued Plassnik, to get things moving in Europe it is necessary to develop and offer solutions for the community at large: "Our position in the European Union will always be equal to the contribution we make to resolving European issues."
With a view to Austria's EU Presidency in 2006, Plassnik stressed that in 2006 Austria would be assuming responsibility for moving Europe ahead. The Presidency of the EU "offers the opportunity to strengthen Austria’s conscience for the European Community and perform a high-quality service for Europe", said the Foreign Minister.
"If you want peace in the world you have to start by living in peace at home and with your neighbours", went on Plassnik, underlining Austria's interest in a good, close relationship with her neighbouring states. "As partners on an equal footing we share a common interest in deepening our regional cooperation and making it thrive".
"Next week, my first journey abroad in my new function will take me to Rome to sign the European Constitution", Plassnik reported. "This constitution will bring the EU citizens basic rights that are enshrined in law and can be invoked before the European Court of Justice, as well as making the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union a reality".
"My central task is to represent Austria's position in a convincing manner both in Europe and in the world at large", Plassnik emphasised. "And the fact of the matter is that the broader the basis on which she can found her position, the better Austria's position will be perceived. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to invite all stakeholders in foreign policy, the political parties, the federal provinces, but also the social partners and the NGOs, to contribute in a results-oriented manner to achieving this objective".
Plassnik concluded her speech by quoting the deceased Prof. Egon Matzner: "For an Austria which is open to the world - for a world which is open to Austria".
The full German text of the Foreign Minister's speech can be accessed on the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (www.aussenministerium.at) under "Aktuelles / Reden und Interviews". Hyperlink: www.aussenministerium.at/view.php3=