Vienna, 25 March 2005 - Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik is paying an official visit to Bhutan from 25 to 28 March. Today she met with HM King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, Prime Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba and Foreign Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk in the capital Thimphu.
Her visit is the second ever paid by an Austrian foreign minister in Bhutan and it is marked by the importance of bilateral relations. "Austria and the Kingdom of Bhutan have had friendly relations for many years," said the Foreign Minister.
Bhutan is a focus of Austrian Development Cooperation in Asia. Cooperation centres on the fields of energy and tourism, as well as the conservation of the cultural heritage. Since 1994, a coordination office of the Austrian Development Cooperation has been in place in Thimphu.
Today's talks with HM King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the fourth king of Bhutan, mainly dealt with issues of development cooperation and the long-term process of decentralisation and democratisation initiated in the early 1980ies by the King, who has been ruling since 1972. "The development principle devised for his country by King Jigme Singye Wangchuk takes the conservation of nature and cultural character into consideration, thus allowing for the gentle modernisation of Bhutan," stated the Austrian Foreign Minister, and went on to say: "This is in keeping with the Austrian approach of development cooperation. We work with our partners on a programme basis, thus trying to improve the living conditions of the population in a sustainable way, and in conformity with their traditions and expectations for the future."
On 26 March the Foreign Minister will open the last stage of the hydroelectric power plant Basochhu, which was built with Austrian support. The hydroelectric power plant is the largest project of Austrian Development Cooperation. While the first stage was mainly financed from Austrian Development Cooperation funds, the second stage was a business project supported by Austrian export promotion loans. Bhutan placed an order for the turnkey construction for the substage with the Austrian-Hydro Consortium Basochhu (AHCB), consisting of VATECH, Alstom-Power, Verbundplan and Alpine-Mayreder. Thus, Bhutan is a remarkable showcase for the mutually beneficial interaction of development cooperation and Austrian export promotion.
Austria will continue to be represented in Bhutan: In the upcoming years, a training institute for hotel and tourism management , including a hotel for practical training, will be established in the capital Thimphu.