Vienna, 10 December 2004 - "The strengthening of human rights is of inestimable importance, particularly in this age of new global threats", explained Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of International Human Rights Day: "Lasting peace and security can only be safeguarded where human rights are guaranteed." The Foreign Minister went on to emphasise that the promotion of human rights is an integral element of Austrian foreign policy, which is why this issue will also occupy an important place in the programme for Austria's EU Presidency.
According to Plassnik, the rapid establishment of the European Human Rights Agency in Vienna is particularly important in this context. The Agency will be tasked with producing analyses and expert appraisals on the human rights situation for the EU institutions. Furthermore, in her capacity as President of the European Council Austria will place greater emphasis on Europe's role in the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. "We have to maintain and strengthen the credibility of the EU on human rights issues", said Plassnik.
Priority issues of Austria's human rights policy include the protection of minorities, upholding the rights of women and children, worldwide enforcement of the ban on torture and combating racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
"Austria's high standing in the field of human rights is based on long years of commitment and our country's active involvement in the dialogue among religions and cultures", said Plassnik. An essential contribution to this excellent reputation was also made by internationally recognised Austrian experts like Professor Nowak, who was recently appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Foreign Minister concluded.