Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs. Minoritenplatz 8.

My long-term priorities for Austria's European, Foreign and Integration Policy

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz
Picture: Dominik ButzmannSebastian Kurz

 

My team and I represent the interests of Austria in Europe and the world. Working in the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs means you have to be flexible while at the same time staying focused on long-term objectives. We often need to react quickly to the latest developments and crises. At the same time we are pursuing clear, long-term goals: promoting positive exchange between countries and cultures and working towards successful coexistence in Austria. We are thus ‘at your service worldwide’, both at the Ministry and in our representations abroad.

The priorities at a glance:

Since 1995, Austria has been a member of the European Union (EU), which has had a major impact on Austria’s Foreign and European policy. EU membership opened up new opportunities to make our voice heard and to influence developments. As equal partners we may thus contribute towards designing common European policies and towards shaping Europe’s relations with the world in the interests of Austria. 

At the moment we are facing several challenges in the EU, in particular the crises and conflicts from the Middle East to Ukraine, migration and the increasing threat of terrorism. Austria cannot overcome these challenges on its own. In order to do this it needs joint European solutions and a unified EU, which strongly asserts itself on the international stage.

Youth and Europe

The European Union is the largest internal market and the second largest economic power in the world. In order for Europe to remain a strong international location, even after Great Britain has left the EU, we in the EU must be ready for reforms and to inject new life into the principle of subsidiarity. We want a Europe which is strong in its foreign and security policy, which ensures economic growth and is capable of securing the EU’s external borders. When it comes to major issues, the EU needs to be our engine, and has to focus on these matters. However, a Europe-wide approach isn’t always appropriate in all cases and Austria should be able to decide for itself and have room to find solutions independently.

Enlargement to the EU: Western Balkans

We are closely connected with the Western Balkans. Austria has long-standing inter-personal, cultural and economic ties with this neighbouring region. Some 500.000 people living in Austria are originally from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro or Serbia and make an important contribution to Austrian society and the Austrian economy.   

We therefore support granting the Western Balkan countries a place in the EU and are in favour of designing the enlargement process in a dynamic manner. The Western Balkan states are important partners in ensuring security, stability and prosperity in Europe. Without the Western Balkans, the EU would in our view be incomplete.

Our safety and security is directly related to stability and peaceful development in our European neighbourhood. As demonstrated by the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the EU and its members need a clear neighbourhood policy. A policy, which provides our Eastern neighbours with the opportunity to participate in common solutions and saves them having to choose between Russia or the EU. Our neighbours should be given the opportunity to keep close ties with the EU while at the same time remaining on good terms with Russia. Sustainable safety and security in Europe can only be achieved in cooperation with Russia and not by working against Russia – and the same holds true vice versa: Russia too, can only ensure long-term safety and security by working with and not against Europe.

By taking over the Chairmanship of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) in 2017, we also assumed international responsibility for a safe and peaceful Europe. “Making Europe safer again” is thus the motto we chose for our OSCE Chairmanship. Together with the 57 OSCE participating states, spanning from Vancouver to Vladivostok, we aim to focus most of all on promoting de-radicalisation and counteracting extremism and terrorism. 

Protection of EU external borders is indispensable for the safety and stability of Europe. At the same time we have to create greater prospects for the people in crisis regions and developing countries, so that we can contribute to them living in a self-sufficient manner in their own countries. By significantly increasing the funding for development cooperation as well as for the Foreign Disaster Relief Fund for humanitarian aid, along with the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), we are contributing to strengthening on-the-ground aid.

Austria is a hub for global developments. One of the four headquarters of the United Nations (UN) is located in Vienna. The city is also home to some 40 other international organisations. Our country is thus an important venue for international meetings. The high-level negotiations on Iran, Syria and Libya, for instance, have contributed substantially to strengthening Vienna’s position as a platform for international dialogue. We continue to work towards attracting further important meetings and promoting Vienna as a venue for relevant global policy negotiations.

The Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, the oldest diplomatic college in the world, educates students from all over the globe for an international career in diplomacy and business. We attach great importance to fostering dialogue in international relations. From international negotiations to international cultural policy projects – by engaging in dialogue we promote trust between states, cultures and religions. This approach and the basis thus created enable us to advocate more effectively a global order that respects international law and human rights and a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

Integration in Austria

Austria is characterised by immigration and diversity. Every fifth Austrian has a migration background and thus roots in a foreign country. Austria is a country of opportunities – and migrants, irrespective of their background, country of origin, colour of skin or religion, have a wide range of opportunities available. What counts is the positive contribution people are prepared to make to Austria and to Austrian society. One can achieve anything in Austria with commitment and the will to succeed.

Logo Austrian Integration Fund

The prerequisite for such achievements and positive contributions is successful integration in Austria. The enormous challenges that have been posed by the European migration crisis since 2015 in particular call for “integration based on merit”. Alongside the acquisition of German language skills, education, training, and joining the labour market, successful integration is also based on the sharing of the fundamental values governing life in Austria. These fundamental pillars are necessary and encouraged, as only then can we live together in social harmony. A key partner in our integration policy work is the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF, Österreichischer Integrationsfonds), which has created a substantial basis for performance-based integration in Austria through joint initiatives and projects, such as the huge development of language courses, values and orientation courses and the initiative TOGETHER:AUSTRIA (ZUSAMMEN:ÖSTERREICH).

A total of some 1,200 staff are at your service worldwide. Our representations are service centres for all Austrians abroad, irrespective of whether they live abroad, are travelling or doing business abroad, whether they are studying in another country or are active at the cultural level. The numbers of trips taken abroad by Austrians and the number of Austrians residing abroad continue to increase. At the same time, however, the number of crisis regions around the globe is also on the rise. Our representations are the first point of contact for Austrians who are faced with an emergency situation abroad. This requires a dense service network, which we continue to expand, also thanks to our honorary consulates.

With the aim of providing efficient and citizen-friendly services we also continue to improve and update our range of electronic services: One of these is travel registration, which enables us to reach you in case of emergency. We may also turn your mobile phone into a virtual ID by activating the mobile phone signature. In case of emergency abroad, our hotline staff are also available to answer calls 24 hours a day on +43 1 90115 4411

To a great extent, Austria’s prosperity depends on its export business. Austria’s industry and business earns 6 out of 10 euros abroad. Fifty per cent of all Austrian companies are also active in another EU country. By having set up business partnerships in the field of development cooperation and by establishing the “Business Support Service Unit” (“Unternehmensservice”), we support and assist Austrian companies worldwide, pro-actively promoting Austria as an export country and business location. These efforts are also directed at promoting Austria as a tourism destination. With respect to visa-related services Austria is already among the member states which have the largest number of visa application centres of all the Schengen states. We use our visitors program ALPS (Austrian Leadership Programs) every year to bring 100 international leadersto Austria in order to present our country as an innovative and successful business location and offer Austrian companies the opportunity to network.  

Logo ALPs

With our approximately 100 representations around the world we facilitate Austrian companies’ access to new markets, support them in managing challenges in the new country and negotiate international framework conditions for fair trade. In future, the Foreign Ministry’s representations and those operated by the Austrian Economic Chambers (WKO, Wirtschaftskammer) will cooperate even more closely in order to further foster international interlinking and networking. We are also in the process of reducing our network of embassies within the EU in order to increase our presence in international centres of growth and innovation. Recently, we have opened embassies in Belarus, Georgia, Qatar, Colombia, Moldova, Singapore and an office in Silicon Valley.

The Österreich Institut, also offers i.a. for companies German courses to provide qualifications for their employees in 9 locations across eastern and southern Europe.

We want to open the Ministry to a wide range of views and also provide insights into our work. On the Austrian National Day, interested citizens have the opportunity to visit the Ministry and learn more about our work. School classes and associations may visit the Ministry in the context of the program BMEIA ERLEBEN . Many students and high school graduates do their internship placement days at the Ministry and university graduates complete longer internship placements with us. We revised the admission procedures for the diplomatic service in order to ensure that our junior diplomats have even wider and more diverse professional backgrounds and language skills.

Since 2014, we have hosted regular public discussion events bringing together interested citizens. In the context of these “Strattalks” (Strategiegespräche) we seek to learn more about their views on topics such as the EU, the integration of immigrants in Austria and on current policy or business issues. Our Youthtalks have been started in 2017 and provides an opportunity for greater exchange with the younger generations, to discuss their points of view and ideas within the foreign ministry.