It is very hard to believe that five years have passed since my husband and I arrived here in Washington, and that the time to say good-bye has come so very quickly! Although changes, departures, comings and goings are very much an integral part of our profession, one never fully gets used to it – after all, one integrates into an other country, into an other way of life, one forms friendships and connections, and it is never easy to leave all that behind. This is particularly true in our case: I have spent altogether eleven years in the US, my husband even sixteen. This is a long time and an intense experience, which has shaped and influenced us in many different ways. Leaving and knowing that we will come back as visitors, but never with the same professional exposure, is difficult. On the other side, the ties that bind us to this country, the relationships we have formed are very strong and enduring and they will not fade away.
It has been a great honour and a great privilege to serve as Austria’s Ambassador to the United States, and my five years in Washington have been particularly fascinating, interesting, sometimes difficult, but always rewarding. Looking back on everything we did, the projects we undertook, the conferences and symposia we organized, the negotiations we were involved in, I leave with the feeling of progress and accomplishment. The spirit of friendship which underpins the good bilateral relations between our countries is strong and over the past years several new areas of cooperation have developed, in light of the changing issues and the changing demands of our times. At the same time, as an Ambassador of a member state of the European Union, it was also possible to represent the EU – and particularly so, when Austria had the Presidency of the EU in the first six months of 2006, and the Austrian Embassy in Washington became an important player in the transatlantic relationship.
I have always been conscious of the fact that – absorbing and alluring as Washington may be – we are Ambassadors not only inside the Beltway, but to the United States as a whole. My husband and I have travelled widely and have explored many diverse, beautiful and always fascinating parts of this country. And even more fascinating is the diversity of the people we have met – always warm and welcoming, open and curious, eager to be informed, and with a sense of hospitality that is unrivalled.
We are leaving the United States at an important juncture on its own political path, and a decision of crucial importance for the future development of this country is looming. Whatever the outcome of this decision will be, we leave with a strong belief in the strength of this country, of its institutions, of its value system, of its sense of responsibility, and we will be happy to continue to contribute to the transatlantic relationship, albeit from the other side of the Atlantic.
To all our faithful readers and subscribers I bid farewell. I extend to all of you my very best and heartfelt wishes for your well-being, your continued success and happiness, for a life in peace and security!