Hannes Richter

In Sync

Hannes Richter

During her first official visit to the United States in early September, Austria's Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Ms. Plassnik's visit was designed to ensure that optimum preparations were made for Austria's European Union (EU) Presidency during the first six months of 2006.

Together we have the opportunity to move many things in a positive direction,Mi nister Plassnik, referring to a wide range of issues which are of concern to Europe and the U.S. and which will be the focus of Austria's EU Presidency.

In this commemorative year we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of our Second Republic and the 50th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty, and it gives us an opportunity to remember that the reconstruction of Austria would not have been possible without the determined commitment of the United States to peace and freedom. Along with our partners in the EU and the U.S. we are now helping to support peace and democracy.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik (left) with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

Ms. Plassnik also emphasized that the Balkans would be an issue of special concern to the Transatlantic Partnership during the Austrian EU Presidency: Austria's expertise in this field is highly regarded and I informed Condoleezza Rice of the Balkans Conference scheduled for March 2006 in Austria. We also discussed other priorities of our EU Presidency such as the Middle East, where efforts are currently under way to return to the Road Map for Peace. We are hopeful that the elections in Afghanistan on September 18 will be successful and without incident. Currently, Austria is an active participant in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

In the future, the so-called Dialogue Between Civilisations, Religions and Cultures will be a central theme for our societies. When Secretary of State Rice was informed of the Austrian initiative to organize a high-level international conference in Vienna this November, she was very interested, said Ms. Plassnik. The Foreign Minister once more expressed her sympathy to Condoleezza Rice for the devastating loss of

lives and property caused by Hurricane Katrina. The Secretary reiterated her gratitude for the assistance offered by Austria. Unfortunately, the events of the last few days have shown that we are all vulnerable. I therefore suggested that we should make use of our common experiences to quickly and effectively help the people affected,  said the Minister. Since President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had visited European institutions in early spring, Ms. Plassnik stressed that Austria would continue to work within this framework during its Presidency. The EU-U.S. Summit will also be held during Austria's EU Presidency.

The talks took place in a very cordial atmosphere where the musically trained Secretary Rice spoke of her life-long love of Mozart.