Vienna, 20 December 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Solidarity, humaneness and professionalism in dealing with the tsunami disaster"


Vienna, 20 December 2005 - At today’s Ministerial Council, the Federal Government took stock of the measures and aid programmes undertaken since the tsunami catastrophe and presented a preview of the next stage of reconstruction aid.

"December 26 marks the first anniversary of the devastating tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean when more than 230,000 people, among them 86 Austrians, lost their lives. In the coming days our thoughts will be with the families and friends who were torn apart so suddenly and unexpectedly," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

In the months following the tsunami disaster the competent ministries increased and developed their technical and personnel capacities. At the Call Centre of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs the number of connections was increased from seven to thirty, the technical and psychological training of employees was improved and a globally accessible database designed to facilitate the search for missing persons was established.

"During its EU Presidency, Austria will continue to give strong support to the idea of further developing European cooperation in times of crisis. There is no doubt that we need more Europe in this area," continued the Foreign Minister.

The Federal Government has earmarked a total of 34 million euros for emergency and reconstruction aid. To date, about 12.7 million euros have been committed to specific projects. This money has helped to supply urgently needed aid commodities but has also made a lasting contribution to the reconstruction of economy and society.

"We have successfully managed the first stage, i.e. the first year of the three-year reconstruction aid programme. The people in the affected regions, in particular Sri Lanka, are receiving concrete help. The issue now is to take the next steps on the basis of specific demand and sustainability. In doing so, the Federal Government is being guided by an independent study commissioned by the Foreign Ministry, focusing in 2006 on civil war regions like Sri Lanka and Indonesia in areas such as national reconciliation, education, health and the strengthening of civil society," said the Foreign Minister.

"Ernst Strasser has coordinated the manifold activities of the government, the provinces, municipal and local communities and aid organisations with prudence and professionalism. The Federal Government has expressed its thanks and appreciation for Ernst Strasser’s valuable and honorary commitment, which will terminate on 26 December 2005," continued Plassnik.

The Ministry of the Interior provided humanitarian emergency aid and sent two teams of experts to help identify the victims; the Ministry of Defence provided the Galle Region with two drinking water preparation plants; the Ministry for Social Affairs is supporting women’s projects in India; the Ministry of Transport is contributing to the reconstruction of the railway line from Colombo to Matara in Sri Lanka; the Ministry for Economic Affairs is participating in the "We are building life" project, thus making an important contribution to the reconstruction of villages in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

"The tsunami disaster was a painful common experience that has brought us closer together. People from different continents helped each other and demonstrated humaneness, compassion and solidarity. The global village has shown its strong points: distant countries became close neighbours and everybody helped to the best of their abilities. I sincerely thank all Austrians for their impressive willingness to donate," concluded the Foreign Minister.

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