Vienna, 6 September 2010 – “We are facing tremendous challenges. We all need to make a contribution to the consolidation of the budget. But we must - and will - not stop solely at saving money. We seize this opportunity as a chance for readjustment as regards content, strategy and structure,” stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger in his opening address at this year’s Ambassadors’ Conference, being held in Vienna between 6 and 8 September 2010. Addressing the assembled heads of Austrian embassies, diplomatic missions, consulates and cultural fora abroad, the Foreign Minister explained the difficult situation facing the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs in relation to the new European External Action Service, modern means of communication and the just expectations of citizens.
“We must not cling to the cherished picture of an ambassador of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but must develop a new concept. Reforms of our structures and work methods are important in order that the Ministry for European and International Affairs is positioned as a modern, service-oriented enterprise,” continued Spindelegger.
The Foreign Minister made it clear that Austria would continue to persistently pursue its foreign policy priorities: membership of the UN Security Council, candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council, commitment to the Western Balkans and the Danube Region, the strengthening of relations with states bordering the Black Sea as well as dialogue on the EU. “Even if some Balkan states sometimes get in the way of themselves in the process of rapprochement with the EU, we shall stick to our guns. Our efforts to ensure all the Western Balkan states are part of the EU family by 2020 shall continue unrelentingly,” emphasised Spindelegger.
The Minister placed special priority on co-operation with business, including sponsoring activities within the framework of international cultural policy. “It is imperative to seize opportunities, define markets that have a great potential as well as intensify co-operation with business. This is an important future task for us,” asserted Spindelegger, paying special attention to the EU Strategy for the Danube Region together with the Black Sea and the Caucasus. “We must think beyond macro-regional strategies, and turn work on the Strategy for the Danube Region into increased political co-operation,” emphasised the Minister.
Minister Spindelegger also focused on the citizens’ service provided by the Foreign Ministry. “The help offered to Austrians who get into a scrape abroad must not be curtailed. Austrians must be able to rely on us, particularly in very difficult situations, for instance when they are affected by catastrophe far away from home. Committed consular work is the most important visiting card of the Foreign Ministry. It is only possible in the form of team work between the Ministry, the heads of missions and staff serving in various fields,” stated the Foreign Minister, expressing his thanks for their untiring commitment in evacuating Austrians from the disaster areas in Pakistan and northern India.
The official guest speaker at this year’s Ambassadors’ Conference was the Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi, who provided information on the projects of Hungary’s EU Presidency in the first half of 2011. Further speakers are Dr. Christoph Leitl, President of the Austrian Economic Chamber, Professor Ewald Nowotny, Governor of the Austrian National Bank, and Patrick Child, Director in the European Commission’s Department for EU External Services. They will elaborate on such topics as Austria’s external economic relations, the global financial and economic crisis, and the European External Action Service.
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