Wien, 22. November 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "Active international solidarity in practice"

22.11.2006

Principal Parliamentary Committee takes decision on one-year extension of Austrian participation in 10 international and European peace missions

Vienna, 22 November 2006 - "Today's decision by the Principal Parliamentary Committee underlines Austria’s long-term commitment to peace and our willingness to assume responsibility at the international level," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik following today’s decision by the Principal Parliamentary Committee on the extension of Austria’s participation in European and international peace missions.

About 1,300 Austrians are active worldwide in UN and EU peace missions. "It is not just a question of military peace-keeping missions but also of providing the people who have suffered in conflict situations with a real perspective for the future. Preconditions for long-term peace also include legal certainty and reliable democratic institutions. For this reason the civilian aspect of missions abroad is becoming more and more important," emphasised the Foreign Minister. Particularly in this area Austria had made valuable contributions, for instance in the police missions in Bosnia and the Palestinian Territories. Austria also dispatched a customs expert to the Rafah border crossing in the Gaza Strip.

"Austria does not participate in all missions with the same amount of personnel. However, the Federal Government considers it important that we participate in all EU missions within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy. In smaller missions in Sudan, Cyprus, Georgia and Afghanistan Austrians are also active in the interests of peace. All these missions show our country’s commitment to peace and active solidarity in practice," Plassnik stressed.

"Our focus will continue to lie in the Balkans and in the Middle East. Precisely here it becomes obvious that our commitment benefits us as well. With our commitment in Bosnia and Herzegovina we contribute to more stability and peace in the region - and thus to more security for Austria," continued Plassnik. With 387 peacekeepers in the Middle East, Austria would continue to provide the largest contingent on the Golan Heights and participate in the EU mission in the Palestinian Territories to safeguard the border at Rafah.

At present, a total of 15 Austrian women are participating in peace missions. "Consistently strengthening the active role of women in crisis management is a special concern of mine. When putting peace missions together, women should be given special consideration. They in particular can contribute special knowledge and understanding to the reconstruction of society, thus significantly enriching the missions with their experience," concluded Plassnik.

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