Vienna, 20 July 2010 - "The year 2009 has clearly confirmed once again that Austrian contribution is appreciated and in great demand around the world. Today, Vienna is an important intersection in the international security architecture and enjoys an excellent reputation as a place of dialogue. Therefore, we can shape Austria’s European and foreign policy for the 21st century with self-confidence", said Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger during today’s presentation of the Foreign Policy Yearbook 2009 in the Council of Ministers. "The highlights of our foreign policy work during the previous year were Austria’s successful work as a member of the UN Security Council, the 30th anniversary of Vienna as UN headquarters, and the positive summary we can draw after 15 years of membership in the European Union. We managed to set important trends in the traditional core areas of Austria’s foreign policy, the Western Balkans and the Danube Region, and to take the first steps toward the foreign policy focus of the coming years –the Black Sea, a region of the future", said the Foreign Minister.
"In the UN Security Council, Austria has put the rule of law at the centre of its work from the very beginning. A special priority of our engagement is to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. Our ambitious approach has borne fruit. With the unanimous approval of UN resolution 1894 during the Austrian presidency in the Security Council in November 2009, we achieved a concrete and encouraging progress in this area", said Spindelegger.
"Especially during the economic crisis, Austrians feel that we need integration in a strong and functioning EU. At the same time, however, there continues to be a palpable scepticism toward the EU in our country. Therefore, I deliberately seek to engage in personal and direct conversations with as many citizens as possible. My 'EU listening tour' through all provinces has shown that a practiced and honest dialogue is the most effective remedy against EU scepticism. Based on the experiences from these discussions and encounters, I presented a package of measures on European dialogue in Austria to the Federal Government on Europe Day 2009, which represents the basis for the future efforts in this area", said the Foreign Minister.
"The quick rapprochement of the countries of the Western Balkans to the EU remains a priority of Austrian foreign policy. Together with my Romanian colleague, I initiated an EU strategy for the Danube Region in early 2009, which allows us to cooperate more closely with our neighbours in this important region. This Austrian-Romanian initiative eventually became a European core project. Especially for us Austrians, the Danube Region is a potential engine of growth, and the Danube River not only represents a symbol of an integrating Europe, but also a part of our European identity. As part of our active neighbourhood policy, I also want to place a further focus on the Black Sea region, a promising region of Europe. We intend to make a targeted use of its great economic, human, and cultural potential", said Spindelegger.
Development cooperation is another important area of responsibility for the Foreign Ministry: "Austria is engaged in efforts to reduce suffering and poverty around the world. I am particularly keen on strengthening cooperation with all participating ministries and on improving coherence in this respect – since development cooperation is a responsibility of the entire Federal Government“, stressed the Foreign Minister.
In Austria’s international cultural policy, the year 2009 was dominated by the historical changes of 1989: "Through a large number of events – such as the European Congress titled `Divided | United 1989-2009´ - we were able to explain the importance of the fall of the Iron Curtain especially to young generations that have no personal memory of the division of Europe".
"The support provided to Austrian expatriates and the services to Austrians who find themselves in distress abroad also occupy a central role in our daily work. The Ministry staff perform a magnificent work, often under difficult, sometimes even dangerous circumstances, with exceptional idealism and commitment. During last year alone, they provided concrete assistance in more than 53,000 cases. For this I wish to thank them very much", Spindelegger concluded.
The Foreign Policy Yearbook 2009 is available for download on the website of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (www.bmeia.gv.at) and can be ordered in book form – also from the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (Department VI.8, Minoritenplatz 8, 1014 Vienna; firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel.: 0 50 11 50-3321).
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