Referring to the terrible attacks on the City of London, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik asked the guests to join her in a minute of silent commemoration at the beginning of the official celebrations to mark the opening of the new premises of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. "With horror and dismay we heard yesterday about the terrible attacks that rocked the City of London. The unanimous condemnation of these crimes by the entire world shows that we are all firmly decided to join forces and fight terrorism together, availing ourselves of all means our democratic societies have at their disposal under the rule of law. We will not give in to terrorism, the horror and fear", said the Foreign Minister.
Addressing the numerous guests of honour, among them seven of her predecessors in office, the Foreign Minister said: "It gives me great pleasure to see that so many guests of honour and staff members have come to join our celebrations and I would like to welcome you all here with us as friends and family members".
Plassnik warmly thanked the three initiators and facilitators who had made the new headquarters possible: Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and the Governor of the Province of Lower Austria Erwin Pröll: "We are the beneficiaries of your initiative, for which we would like to say a very warm thank you". The architect of the new headquarters, Gerhard Lindner, had succeeded in combining the charm of the city centre of Vienna with the requirements of our modern times and had invested the building with a special flair, mixing old elements with new ones, the Foreign Minister explained.
"For a total of 286 years the official address of the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs was Ballhausplatz 2. Thus it is not without a feeling of sentimentality that we left the old premises," the Foreign Minister went on, at the same time stressing that the experience of the first few months had clearly shown that the move had been worthwhile. "The fact that we are all together in one place has inspired us with new energy and given our work a fresh impetus - and this is naturally also due to the state-of-the-art infrastructure," Plassnik said.
"The Foreign Ministry simultaneously acts as the Ministry for European Affairs of the Republic of Austria. And from the experience we have gained over the last ten years, we know that this organisational structure has also withstood the practical test of time. We offer our expertise and the networks we have established around the world to all government departments, to the Austrian Parliament, to our Members of the European Parliament, to the Federal Provinces and to the Austrian population in general. We are a hub for the sharing and exchange of information, analyses, positions and concerns - and it is this which represents the actual strategic core function of this ministry", the Foreign Minister emphasised.
Plassnik then stressed that the Foreign Ministry was an important contact point which was pro-actively addressing people’s concerns and fears, particularly at a time when scepticism was being voiced with respect to Europe. "As an initial step we have thus installed a platform for dialogue which can be accessed via the homepages of the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Chancellery. By clicking on "EUROPA HÖRT ZU" (Europe is listening) at www.aussenministerium.at or www.bundeskanzleramt.at everybody can tell us what they expect from Europe, what they do not like about it and what kind of Europe they would like to see in the future. I would like to invite you all to make use of this service", Plassnik informed the assembled guests.
Young artists also attended the opening celebrations as guests of honour. They had participated in a competition organised in cooperation with the Leopold Museum and had expressed their ideas on Europe in painting. The Ministry is exhibiting more than 40 of their paintings on the walls of its new premises. Thanking the children for their contribution Plassnik said: "I am very proud of the diverse nature of your works and the rich imaginative power you have demonstrated in your paintings". Three works received a specific distinction but the Foreign Minister emphasised: "We really found it quite difficult to select the most beautiful paintings - each of the paintings conveys a specific message and has its own peculiar charm". Prizes were awarded to Simon Dietz, Marie Schneider and Lisa Salomon.
Concluding the Foreign Minister thanked all colleagues - the 585 here in Vienna and the 749 all around the world - and said that she hoped that they would enjoy the new premises, wishing them "good health, strong nerves and confidence, but also an awareness of the shared feeling of togetherness and the bonds that unite us".