Vienna, 5 September 2005 - At the opening of the five-day ambassadors’ conference, which brought almost 100 Austrian office holders to Vienna, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik expressed the wish to lead the EU Presidency next year "as a team with courage and confidence."
"The Presidency will be managed by Austria not only in Vienna and Brussels but in a total of 86 countries and at six multilateral offices. Our overall performance is of vital importance and our achievements will be judged on that basis," said the Foreign Minister. Plassnik regards the Presidency not as a vehicle for profiling Austria but as an opportunity to render service to Europe and our partners throughout the world.
During the EU Presidency, the Austrian embassies in other countries will be the main communicators of information regarding EU matters and will also function as EU crisis managers in the event of emergencies. "Although every disaster is different and calls for specific resources, we must nevertheless rehearse possible scenarios so that we can react effectively and without delay when the time comes," Plassnik pointed out.
The Foreign Minister is setting the restoration of public confidence as the central theme of the Austrian EU Presidency. "We are undergoing a crisis of confidence in Europe. Our priority aim will therefore be to strengthen public confidence in the European Union. Better and more ample information is not enough; the way in which we make European policy must become more visible and comprehensible again," explained Plassnik. With its slogan "Europe 4 people - people 4 Europe" Austria is aiming to provide a stimulus that will also signal Europe’s real interest in the concerns and issues that matter to its inhabitants.
Apart from difficult discussions about the solutions concerning future direction and financial prospects, Plassnik believes that the western Balkans and Middle East will be the main foreign policy focuses during the Austrian Presidency. "I have visited both regions this year with a view to strengthening ties and establishing effective contacts in the region and with our most important partners and shall also be travelling to Washington and Moscow in the coming weeks to meet my colleagues in office in person," reported the Foreign Minister.
Plassnik concluded her address by stating that she had established a top-level group consisting of State Secretary Hans Winkler, Secretary General Johannes Kyrle and Ambassador Gregor Woschnagg, who would be collaborating with the team of ambassadors to ensure a professional Presidency.