Vienna, 23 October 2009 Press release

Spindelegger: "The dialogue with Islam is a common challenge"

Foreign Minister meets with Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Vienna, October 23rd 2009 - "Dialogue with Islam does not only play a central role in the previous and current relations between Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina – it also constitutes one of the major challenges for the future of Europe and the Balkans", stressed Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on the occasion of the visit to Vienna by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina Reis-ul-Ulema Mustafa Ceric.The Grand Mufti was invited to deliver the opening address at a symposium titled „Islamic Education in South-Eastern Europe", scheduled to take place between October on 23rd and 24th at the University of Vienna.The objective of the symposium is to prepare a comparative study on the experiences of Islamic teacher education and the Islamic religious classes in the countries of South-Eastern Europe and Austria.

"Religious and ethnic diversity is shared by Europe and its neighbours on the Balkans.This diversity must not be primarily seen as a problem or even as a threat.It is our common task to utilize it as an economic and social potential", said the Foreign Minister."Austria has a long-standing tradition of dialogue, especially with Islam in our country and with Muslims in Europe.We want to encourage young people with a migration background and young Muslims to help shape Europe’s development in an active, constructive, and forward-looking manner.We will have to undertake further efforts to bring Austrians with a migration background into leading positions and thus create role models for this minority".In this context, Spindelegger pointed out to the symposium "Identity and Participation: Transcultural and Muslim Youth in Europe" organized by the Foreign Ministry together with the Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna in June.

He added that the intercultural and interreligious dialogue is an important element in the rapprochement of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the EU:"Austria remains a reliable partner of Bosnia-Herzegovina on its way to stabilization and European reforms.With the entry into force of the Stabilization and Association Treaty, Bosnia Herzegovina has achieved an important partial objective on its way into the EU family.The objective now must be to consistently maintain its course toward Europe.To this end, it must persistently continue to introduce reforms.Therefore, we shall continue to actively support Bosnia-Herzegovina on this path", said Spindelegger.An important prerequisite for the further rapprochement of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the European Union is also the strengthening and well-functioning of central government structures:"The education system and dialogue have a role to play in this.The aim is to raise awareness among citizens for active participation in a joint democratic state on a national level", the Foreign Minister concluded.

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