Vienna, 31 October 2007 - "Austria has always pro-actively participated as a reliable partner in joint international peace missions. Today’s decisions by the Federal Government underline this long-term commitment for peace and our readiness to assume international responsibility," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the margins of the Ministerial Council, which today took the decision on continuing Austria’s participation in twelve European and international peace missions. Such missions include the EU police missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Palestinian territories, the multi-national peace mission in Kosovo, the UN missions in Cyprus and the Golan Heights as well as the EU monitoring mission in the Western Balkans.
At present, some 1,200 Austrians are active in UN and EU peace operations throughout the world. "The issue is not about military operations to secure peace but mainly to give people in conflict regions a real perspective for the future. Long-term peace also presupposes legal certainty and robust democratic institutions. For this reason the civilian component of missions abroad is becoming more and more important," emphasised the Foreign Minister. In this area in particular Austria was making a valuable contribution to the police missions in Bosnia and the Palestinian Territories, but also by dispatching a woman customs expert to the border crossing at Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
"These missions show the whole bandwidth of our commitment to international stability and peace. The spectrum ranges from "classic" UN missions to NATO missions with a UN mandate to EU missions. All of them are tailored and adjusted to the respective challenge and situation," stated Plassnik. "Despite the bandwidth of the Austrian commitment, which ranges from Georgia to the Middle East to Cyprus, our priority clearly is and remains in the Western Balkans. A total of about 800 Austrian soldiers, policemen and judicial experts are active on behalf of our security in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina," continued Plassnik. The Foreign Minister emphasised that as of May 2008 Austria would be taking over the leadership of the multi-national southern squad in Kosovo for one year. "This is an honour for Austria and proof of the confidence placed in our work," added the Foreign Minister.
"Here in Austria, there is broad political consensus on this active worldwide commitment. This is important to me," emphasised Plassnik, referring to the close coordination with the Ministries of Defence, Interior and Justice. "In these missions, members of the Austrian military forces and police work side by side with Austrian judicial and customs experts," stated the Foreign Minister. In this context she also stressed the necessity of including women in crisis management to an increasing degree. "Not only should women participate in international peace missions, but their concerns in the respective crisis regions should also be taken into account. At present, 27 Austrian women are participating in peace missions. We must undertake joint efforts to swiftly increase this percentage," concluded Plassnik.
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