Vienna, 22 November 2007 - "In these days, our neighbours’ accession to the Schengen Treaty will bring the disappearance of the last physical traces of the Iron Curtain. We are inexorably approaching the great objective of a free and united Europe. Especially the United States has been our most important partner in this undertaking", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik during today’s farewell visit by U.S. Ambassador Susan McCaw. "The next step will be a solution to the Kosovo status problem. Here, too, America is an influential partner with a lot of credibility on the Balkans."
"Today, the USA and the EU are bound by a matured transatlantic partnership. This partnership allows us to openly address issues on which we do not agree. A close transatlantic cooperation based on equality remains an indispensable part of our efforts to find sustainable solutions in crisis regions worldwide. This is also shown by our joint work in the Middle East, even if we sometimes pursue different approaches, such as in the case of Iran", Plassnik continued.
The Foreign Minister also pointed out to the common interest in a positive relationship with Russia, which is not always free of tensions. "The discussion over election monitoring in Russia shows the importance of consistent efforts toward a resilient community of values and interests, for instance within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. At the opening of the new OSCE headquarters in Vienna yesterday, Federal President Heinz Fischer rightly stressed the invaluable contribution of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to the consolidation of democratic structures, and appealed to all Member States of the OSCE to make the best possible use of this unique opportunity."
Plassnik underscored the "long friendship" between Austria and the U.S., also attributed to the "strong and unforgotten" American support in the restoration of democratic freedom and the economic reconstruction after Word War II. "Our accession to the EU has given our relations a new quality. As an EU Member, we actively participate in shaping the transatlantic partnership between the EU and the U.S. This was particularly visible during our EU Presidency and the EU-U.S. summit in May 2006 in Vienna."
"Nevertheless, it is positive for both sides to rediscover each other from time to time. For Americans, it is perhaps surprising to see how dynamic and exciting the "Old Continent" is. Yet we Europeans should not make the mistake of allowing our perspective to be narrowed by individual issues, but must look at our multifaceted and matured relations as a whole", said the Minister. "During her time in Vienna, Ambassador McCaw has made a visible contribution to this: Her commitment to 'public diplomacy' aiming to bring Austrians and Americans closer together again and her engagement for women, youth, and the business world will have a lasting influence upon Austria."
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