Baden, 6 September 2005 - Representing Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik at the Meeting of the World Federation of Austrians Abroad, which took place in Baden bei Wien on 3 September, Hans Winkler, State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, paid tribute to the role of Austrians abroad as inofficial ambassadors of Austria. On the occasion of the meeting journalist Antonia Rados, who has become well-known for her reports from war zones, was presented with an award. Winkler expressed his high esteem for her work and congratulated her on this special award.
"This commemorative year gives us occasion to recall the great achievements of many Austrians in the material and mental reconstruction of our country but also to face the dark chapters of our past", said Winkler, adding that it was this very belief in Austria and Europe that helped to overcome crises. In this context Winkler emphasised that it was important to re-strengthen this belief and re-solve the current crisis of confidence. Moreover, Winkler stressed the fact that merely explaining Europe was not enough. "The citizens should be asked and should tell us what they think Europe should be like and what they expect", added Winkler
Referring to the various concerns of Austrians abroad with regard to their right to vote, their right of citizenship and a legally effective electronic interaction with government bodies, Winkler said that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs would continue to press for improvements and easier access. Winkler also stressed that it was important for Austrians abroad to follow the political developments at home and to call them into question where necessary. "This also involves exercising one’s right to vote, which, unfortunately, is still not made use of in many cases", continued Winkler.