Vienna, 17 June 2010 – Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger and Minister for Economic Affairs Reinhold Mitterlehner want to better leverage the great potential of the Black Sea region in the interests of Austria. At a joint press conference with WIFO (Austrian Institute for Economic Research) boss Karl Aiginger, Spindelegger and Mitterlehner emphasised that “business and foreign policy are co-operating closely in this region in order to jointly open up new markets and opportunities.” A study on the Black Sea region which was commissioned by Austria’s Foreign Ministry and the Ministry for Economic Affairs recommends the “systematic pursuit of opportunities at the entrepreneurial and political levels”. According to Karl Aiginger, relations are “good, but they can clearly be extended.”
“This study confirms that we are heading in the right direction: the Black Sea and Caucasia are regions with future market potential in the forecourt of Europe. It is imperative to leverage this great potential in a targeted manner through economic, political, cultural and scientific collaboration,” stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, who, together with the Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhold Mitterlehner, will take an important step next Wednesday, when they open Austria’s new Embassy in Baku. “This will provide us with strong support in the region. Foreign policy will be a companion and a door opener for business,” affirmed Spindelegger.
Mitterlehner stated that the aim was to double exports to the region to four billion euros a year. Austrian direct investment shall also be doubled to thirteen billion euros. “We want to fully exploit the region’s great dynamic development. In addition to increased internationalisation efforts, a stronger local presence - for instance, the new Austrian Embassy in Baku and more commercial delegations - will be a primary source of help” continued Mitterlehner.
All countries in the region are most keen to eliminate the backlog in developing their infrastructure, their environmental and energy technologies, waste water and waste management, as well as tourism. “Austrian enterprises could score well in these areas,” emphasised Mitterlehner. The Minister for Economic Affairs also counts on more intensive cooperation as regards the security of energy supply, particularly with regard to the supplier countries involved in the Nabucco pipeline project.
“The Black Sea region could be for us for tomorrow what the Balkans are today. In past decades we have demonstrated in the Balkans that we can successfully hold our ground in new – and sometimes difficult – markets. Now we want to utilise this experience and transfer it to the Black Sea region,” stated the Foreign Minister. Spindelegger stressed that in the sensitive regions of the Caucasus and the Black Sea, in particular, Austrian commitment must extend beyond mere economic matters. “Together with our partners in the EU and the OSCE, we want to make a contribution to stabilisation efforts in the region. Political instability or frozen conflicts at our gates endanger security both in Austria and Europe as a whole. A stronger Austrian presence in the region is therefore also in our foreign policy interests,” affirmed Minister Spindelegger.
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