My long-term priorities for Austrian European, Foreign and Integration Policy

My team and I represent the interests of Austria in Europe and the world. Working for 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 and Europe. Another major focus of our work is the provision of services to Austrians. We are thus ‘at your service worldwide’, both at the Ministry and in our representations abroad.

The following section provides further information on key aspects we focus on in our work for the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs:

The priorities at a glance: 

Logo 20 Jahre Österreich in der EU

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. 

The EU and its Member States

The EU and its Member States are currently facing a number of challenges, including the conflicts and wars from Syria to Libya, the refugee movements, the tensions with Russia over the Ukraine conflict and the increasing threat of terrorist attacks. Austria cannot solve these challenges all by itself. We therefore need common European solutions and a united EU which plays a more powerful role at international level.

271 regions of the EU

The European Union is the largest internal market and the second largest economic power in the world. With a view to safeguarding Europe’s position as a major international business location, we, as members of the EU, must be prepared to implement reforms and – where required – also accept a higher level of European integration, for instance in the fields of economy and migration. We want a Europe that is strong in the Foreign, Security and Defence Policy areas, that ensures and stimulates economic growth, and that plays an active role in matters related to the refugee crisis. On major issues we consider the EU our driver. When it comes to smaller issues, however, national solutions often prove more sensible. On such areas Austria should thus be able to take its own decisions and also have room for regional solutions.

Enlargement to the EU: Western Balkans

We are closely connected with the Western Balkans. Austria has long-standing economic, cultural and inter-personal 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.

Security and peaceful development in Europe’s neighbourhood

The level of safety and security enjoyed by us 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 establish even closer 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 assume international responsibility for a safe a peaceful Europe. “Making Europe safer again” is thus the motto of 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. 

Austria is a hub for global developments

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. Austria, and especially Vienna, are thus important venues for international meetings and conferences. 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, particularly as we attach great importance to fostering dialogue at foreign policy level. 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 diversity, which enriches our country. Every fifth Austrian has a migration background so either they themselves or their family are originally from another 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. It is a fact that with commitment and the will to succeed one can achieve everything in Austria.

Logo Austrian Integration Fund

The prerequisite for such achievements and positive contributions is successful integration in Austria. Alongside the acquisition of German language skills, education, training, promotion of skills and joining the labour market, successful integration is also based on the sharing of the fundamental values governing life in Austria. A key partner in our integration policy work is the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF, Österreichischer Integrationsfonds). Since 2010, we have joined forces in implementing common initiatives and projects including language courses, the Values and Orientation Courses or the initiative TOGETHER:AUSTRIA (ZUSAMMEN:ÖSTERREICH).

The FMEIFA – At Your Service Worldwide

A total of some 1,200 FMEIFA staff is 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, 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.

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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 at foreign policy level. These efforts are also directed at promoting Austria as a tourism destination.

With respect to visa-related services Austria is already European champion, boasting the largest number of visa application centres among the Schengen states.

The Foreign Ministry actively supports Austrian companies worldwide.  

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With our approximately 100 representations around the world we facilitate Austrian companies’ access to new markets, support them in managing challenges on the ground and negotiate international framework conditions for fair trade. In future, the Foreign Ministry’s representations and those operated by the Austrian Economic Chamber (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. By 2018, we will open embassies in Qatar, Singapore, Colombia and Georgia, and an office in Silicon Valley.

We want to open the Ministry to a wide range of views and also provide insights into our work. During our annual “Open House” event on 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 BMEIA ERLEBEN (EXPERIENCING THE FMEIFA) programme. 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 longer-term diplomatic service in order to promote open processes. By redesigning the admission process we seek to ensure that our junior diplomats have even wider and more diverse professional backgrounds and language skills. 

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Since 2014, we have hosted regular public discussion events bringing together interested citizens. In the context of these “Strategy talks” (Strategiegespräche ) we seek to learn more about their views on topics such as EU integration, the integration of refugees in Austria and on current policy or business issues. Such exchanges with interested citizens enable us to gain new insights and develop new approaches for our work.