Vienna, 9 August 2007 - At Wednesday’s Ministerial Council meeting Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik presented the Foreign Policy Yearbook 2006. "Last year was marked by huge challenges due to Austria’s Presidency of the EU Council. In spite of the difficult starting position at the beginning of the year we succeeded in strengthening citizens’ trust in Europe and adding new momentum to our common project for the future of Europe", the Minister said.
"The efforts undertaken during our Council Presidency were substantial: in Brussels alone 1,900 sessions had to be scheduled, of which 750 were chaired by our ministry", Plassnik continued. "We achieved at lot at the meetings: at the Klosterneuburg European Council we reached agreement on the roadmap for the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. The European perspective for the countries of the Western Balkans was secured by the Salzburg Declaration. The EU accession negotiations with Croatia were initiated and the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Albania was signed." The Foreign Minister also referred to the importance of the numerous Austrian initiatives, including the European energy policy initiative, the progress made in the field of the Services Directive and, most of all, the policy of actively informing citizens. "The Europeans appreciated our policy of openness and concrete action. This approach enabled us to restore a sense of positive momentum in the Union", the Minister said.
"The dialogue among cultures remains one of our great concerns, not only at the international level but also at home. Thus our Council Presidency was clearly focused on promoting a more tolerant way of living together in the global village. Supported by the unshakeable strength of European values and Austria’s good contacts with the Muslim world, we were able to mediate in a credible manner in the so-called caricature controversy. The second Conference of European Imams also clearly demonstrated that efforts aimed at living together peacefully are really worthwhile. A prerequisite for this dialogue, however, is a willingness to give serious thought to our own identity and values. Here, we were able to make a contribution with the Sound of Europe conference that was held in Salzburg", Plassnik explained.
"In our activities within the EU and beyond as well, the Austrian national colours, red-white-red, are synonymous with confidence-building. In particular, Austria is and remains a strong and reliable partner of the United Nations. The important role played by the Vienna-based UN agencies and organisations further increased in 2006, and we also stepped up our involvement in peace missions and ‘quiet diplomacy’", the Foreign Minister pointed out, referring in this context to Austria’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the period from 2009 to 2010.
"A cornerstone of our foreign policy is the Austrian Development Cooperation and Cooperation with Eastern Europe. It helps us build bridges to our near and more distant neighbours in the global village. The central objectives of the Austrian Development Cooperation and Cooperation with Eastern Europe are combating poverty, preventing conflicts, promoting human security, establishing rule-of-law structures and the sustainable use of natural resources. In addition, every project managed by the Austrian Development Cooperation is scrutinised to ensure that it takes into consideration women’s interests and concerns", the Foreign Minister added.
"With its active international cultural policy Austria shows its colours to the world. Our large pool of artists and scientists adds an unmistakably colourful and multifaceted dimension to our international relations. In 2006, when we celebrated the anniversaries of Sigmund Freud and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, more than 100,000 people actively participated in related projects that were either initiated or supported by Austrian international cultural policy", Plassnik said.
"The Foreign Ministry also sees itself as a modern resource facility at the service of Austrians worldwide. We provide advice and practical support to our compatriots in distress far from home. During the Lebanon war, for instance, we got 328 Austrians to safety via Syria and Cyprus and also evacuated 143 citizens of other EU Member States", the Foreign Minister added.
The Foreign Policy Yearbook 2006 is available in electronic form on the website of the Ministry for European and International Affairs at www.bmeia.gv.at and can be ordered free of charge in printed form from: Bundesministerium für europäische und internationale Angelegenheiten, Abteilung VI.8, Minoritenplatz 8, A- 1014 Vienna; AbtVI8@bmeia.gv.at; Tel.: (0) 501150-3321.
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