Vienna, 21 November 2008 Press release

Plassnik: "Use the common cultural heritage as a source of strength"

Foreign Minister and Czech colleague Schwarzenberg sign cultural agreement

Vienna, 21 November 2008 - "For neighbours with common cultural roots, the conscious care and further development of cultural relations apart from those on a political and human level is particularly important. The intention of this agreement is to further intensify our close and friendly relationship also on future topics like education, youth, science, and culture. Stronger cultural exchange brings knowledge and understanding for the positions and attitudes of each other. From this we can also draw strength to promote common Central European interests in Europe", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik at the signing of a cultural agreement with her Czech colleague Karel Schwarzenberg in Vienna.

The agreement is replacing the one concluded between Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1977, and establishes a clear legal basis for the Austrian Gymnasium in Prague and for the Komensky School in Vienna. "The new agreement provides us with the basis required to enhance the study into our varied common cultural, historic, and scientific heritage, and to use it for the common European future. 40 years after the events of the Prague Spring in 1968, and almost 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the agreement will provide specific impulses for joint cultural projects to mark the overcoming of the communist system of injustice and thus the reunification of Europe", said the Foreign Minister, who pointed out to the 2009 cross-border provincial exhibition of Lower Austria "Austria – Czech Republic” in Raabs, Horn, and Telc, and to her own initiative titled "Geteilt | Geeint, 1989-2009: Aufbruch in ein neues Europa" for which an international congress is planned in May 2009. "The objective is also to visualise specific contributions from recent history to our contemporary European identity", said Plassnik.

"The connecting lines between Austria and the Czech Republic are most dense and most varied, especially on the human level. They are a visible sign that the Iron Curtain that divided us over decades has now been overcome, and that Europe is becoming increasingly integrated. Therefore, the motto of the Czech EU Presidency, `Europe without barriers´ is particularly well chosen", commented Plassnik on the imminent EU Presidency by the Czech Republic in the first half of 2009.

Plassnik added: "I am convinced that our neighbour will master its European leadership role well. The past has shown that especially small and medium-size states can deliver a good presidency. The „SME“ are the backbone of the Union, and they are important stakeholders who shape and share responsibility for EU policy as equals. Slovenia, the first of the „2004 class“ to hold the Presidency, has already proven itself in chairing the EU, and acted with care in crisis management during a challenging period - e.g. on the Kosovo issue. We have faith in the quality of small and medium-size states, and we will do our best to support the Czech Republic during its EU Presidency."

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