Vienna, 30 September 2009 Press release

Spindelegger: Making the UN "a place of action" again

Foreign Minister Spindelegger presents the outlines of Austrian foreign policy to the Austrian Society for Foreign Policy and United Nations

Vienna, 30 September 2009 - Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger sees the debate on climate change and nuclear disarmament as "a real opportunity to make the United Nations a place of action again". It became evident in New York that a new wind is blowing", said Spindelegger, who made a clear commitment to Austria's consistent multilateral engagement in the speech he delivered on Tuesday before the Society for Foreign Policy and United Nations. "The opportunity truly exists to change the United Nations back to what was originally conceived in the UN Charta: not merely a discussion forum but a place of action, a central platform for the efforts of the international community to find common solutions to common challenges."

Austria is a much sought-after dialogue partner in this process - especially as a member of the Security Council. "Our membership in the Security Council offers a good opportunity to effectively strengthen our international network of contacts. During the UN General Assembly, we were able to promote our causes and establish networks in more than 25 bilateral meetings and talks with 70 foreign ministers, that is, around a third of the entire international community", said the Foreign Minister.

In his speech, Spindelegger presented Austria’s priority areas as a current member of the UN Security Council: "The protection of civilians in armed conflicts, especially of children, is a very important issue for us". Austria intends to use the presidency of the Security Council in November to develop specific measures towards improving the international protection instruments as part of a new resolution, Spindelegger continued. This will involve, among others, clear guidelines for the work of UN missions and the improvement of communication between mission commanders on the ground and the UN Headquarters in New York. A delicate item in the Security Council will be the issue of sanctions against violations of existing protection instruments for civilians: "The rights of the victims can only be guaranteed when effective legal and reconciliation mechanisms are also put in place".

Another priority area of foreign policy must be to further consolidate Austria’s role as "as a centre and platform for peace work and dialogue". "The international organizations are making a significant contribution to Vienna´s worldwide reputation. Austria intends to continue its active contribution to the international dialogue. Holding the Western Sahara Talks near Vienna is an initial success in that direction“, said the Foreign Minister.

Spindelegger also referred to the Treaty of Lisbon, on which a referendum will be held in Ireland next Friday. He warned against dominance by large states in future EU foreign policy, for which the Lisbon Treaty is to create a "European Foreign Service". "The small and medium-size states must coordinate themselves in time so as to better enforce our common interests", said Spindelegger, who also demanded that the European Union acts in a more united way: "Only if we manage in the EU to speak with a more united voice to the outside world and to jointly defend European interests in the world will we succeed in winning over the population in support of the European integration process".

In this context, the Minister pointed out to Austria’s engagement in the Western Balkans: "The Western Balkans remain a priority region for Austria, and we will continue to work toward maintaining a tangible EU perspective for these countries“. In this context, the Minister mentioned Croatia’s good chances of completing EU membership negotiations soon: "Should the present momentum continue, negotiations with Croatia could be completed by mid-2010".

Beyond the Western Balkans, Austrian foreign policy has another promising region in its sights, the Black Sea region: "Europe must and will deal more intensively with this neighbouring region". It is necessary to draw the Black Sea region closer to the EU, exploit the available potentials, and engage in active stability work. "At the same time, the region is regarded as one of the most promising markets in Europe's front yard. It has rapidly growing markets and raw material reserves that are indispensable for Europe. The Caucasus and Black Sea region is one of the most important and dynamic regions in the European neighbourhood" Spindelegger continued. He added that it is in Austria's interest to pay more attention to this future market.

Austria has thus decided to open an embassy in Baku in the coming year. "My objective is to intensify our contacts on all levels - economic, political, cultural, and human. I am convinced that the relations to the Black Sea region and to the Caucasus bear a great potential", Spindelegger concluded.

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