New York, 21 September 2006 - "’United in Diversity’ - this motto not only expresses what we Member States of the EU demand of ourselves, but also our hopes and aspirations for these United Nations. Austria makes a consistent contribution to translating this management principle into practice: as host country to the only UN headquarters within the European Union, as President of the European Union in the first semester of 2006, and as a venue for the dialogue of religions and cultures," said Foreign Minister Plassnik in the opening words of her speech before this year's United Nations General Assembly.
In her address, Foreign Minister Plassnik spanned the spectrum from the major challenges currently facing the international community of states to the central socio-political issues of the early 21st century.
Referring to the Middle East conflict, the Foreign Minister pointed to the recent signs of hope, such as President Abbas' efforts to form a government of national unity and the recent meeting of the Middle East Quartet. "We are aware that we may now have reached a decisive turning point. The Middle East Quartet should now pave the way towards an international Middle East conference, a broad Middle East peace initiative that should be open to all regional partners who are willing to participate constructively in search of a comprehensive peace settlement," Plassnik proposed. "A conference of this kind could also examine the longer term potential for establishing regional security arrangements," the Foreign Minister continued.
Turning to Europe, Plassnik described the peaceful convergence of the European continent as the key future task of the European Union, with the main focus of attention on South-East Europe. "Today, we want the countries of South-East Europe and the Balkans to take their rightful place in Europe, to include them in the re-unification process of our continent", declared Plassnik. Conceding that there were still some difficult issues to be resolved with regard to the negotiations on the status of Kosovo, the Foreign Minister went on: "As neighbours and friends we urge both Belgrade and Pristina to engage in these negotiations in a result-oriented manner, and with the necessary sense of realism. Our goal is a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo whose citizens can all live in security and dignity, on a basis of mutual trust. In the same spirit, a confident, peaceful and prosperous Serbia, fully integrated into the family of European nations, is crucial for the stability of the entire region".
Plassnik emphasised that the dialogue of religions and cultures was a key aspect of being "United in Diversity" and called for this topic to be given an even higher priority within the work of the United Nations: "We have to provide orientation in a rapidly globalising world that many regard as a menace. The minefield of collective emotions is not a good place to discuss questions of belief. In a world where connections are established by a single mouse click, feelings of frustration, humiliation, and neglect can erupt at the slightest provocation. This is what we need to counteract - and we need to do it steadfastly and rigorously, calmly and meticulously. This is a topic we cannot leave to the street."
In her address, the Foreign Minister also spoke out clearly in favour of renewed efforts aimed at nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, saying that the international community had to make a renewed commitment to these goals to help them prevail. In this context Plassnik reiterated her offer, extended at the 50th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to host the first preparatory meeting to the next NPT Review Conference in Vienna, while underlining Austria's basic rejection of nuclear energy: "In our view nuclear energy is not an answer to climate change and global warming; it bears too many risks and uncertainties to be regarded as a safe and sustainable source of energy."
Concluding, Foreign Minister Plassnik turned to a particular personal concern of hers, the role of women and children, issuing a clear call to women to engage in all levels of political life with strength and self-confidence. "The voices of women also need to be heard more clearly in the work of the United Nations. Women know a great deal about what holds families, communities and societies together. We have a very urgent need for this knowledge and for the voices of women, especially in peace processes. We need women in UN missions, at the negotiating table and in decision-making processes, and not only in the background", stressed Plassnik.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213