Hannes Richter

Farewell to Austria

Hannes Richter
by W.L. Lyons Brown

As I write this, my wife, Alice Cary, and I are preparing to leave Vienna sometime this fall, and our time representing the United States in this wonderful and vibrant country will come to an end.

These last four years have not always been the easiest in the long history of U.S.-Austrian relations. Both our countries are adjusting to a rapidly-changing and often difficult global situation. Understandably, we have not always agreed on how to manage each new challenge; however, I and my government have always been able to count on an open and energetic dialogue with Austria's government and people and for that I will always be grateful.

Ambassador W.L. Lyons Brown

The year 2005 has been a year of celebration for Austria, and it has given many of us the chance to think about the relationship between our countries in the context of recent history. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and Austria's liberation by the Allied Forces. Dozens of events this year have served to remind Austrians and Americans alike of our shared experiences during those difficult times. Americans are proud of the role we and the other Allies played in helping to bring hope and promise of a better life out of the fear and destruction of wartime.

Austria is also celebrating the 50th year of its sovereignty and Americans are also proud of our contribution to the country's postwar independence. Although a neutral country, Austria was an important bulwark of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights during the Cold War. Today, with the Iron Curtain gone, it is an important link between Western and Eastern Europe. Austrians can be justifiably proud of the remarkable society they have created out of the ashes and rubble of the Second World War.

The year 2005 also marks the tenth anniversary of Austria's entry into the European Union and, next January, Austria will assume the EU presidency. During Austrian leadership, the EU will be dealing with vital issues such as terrorism, stability in the Balkans, democracy in the Middle East, helping poor countries break out of poverty's vicious circle, and many others. The United States of America looks forward to working closely with Austria and the other EU members to advance our mutual agenda and strengthen the transatlantic relationship.

Finally, I should say that from our very first day in Vienna, Alice Cary and I have been overwhelmed by the kindness, warmth and extraordinary hospitality of the Austrian people. We have made so many new and wonderful friends all over Austria. It is those friends, together with the honor of serving my country in one of the most beautiful and cultured cities of the world, that have made my term a splendid and unforgettable experience.

When my term as Ambassador ends, Alice Cary and I will not sever our ties with Austria. We are so pleased to have been able to buy an apartment in Vienna which will allow us to spend some time every year in a place we have come to love so much. We look forward to a long and continued association with Austria and its wonderful people.