Message by H.E Dr. Brigitta Blaha Ambassador of Austria
It gives me great pleasure to address the readers of “Diplomatic Star” on the occasion of the Austrian National Day on 26 October 2015.
It is 60 years ago that Austria regained its full independence after the Second World war and subsequent ten years of occupation and was re-established as a sovereign State.
It is also 60 years ago that Austria joined the United Nations, whose establishment 70 years ago was recently celebrated also in Islamabad with many events. In 1979, Austria’s capital Vienna, already a centre for international dialogue, became one of the UN-headquarters (besides New York, Geneva and Nairobi) and has since advanced as a centre for energy and security issues. Austria has also participated in UN peacekeeping operations, thus providing an essential and visible contribution to the United Nations’ efforts to maintain peace and international security. Since 1960, more than 90,000 Austrian soldiers and civilian helpers served in over 50 international peace support and humanitarian missions.
2015 marks also 20 years of Austria’s membership in the European Union. Austria was a valued promoter of the European project, first as a member of EFTA (European Free Trade Association) and from 1st January 1995 as a member of the European Union. In 1997 Austria signed the Schengen Agreement and in 1999 it was among the first group of eleven countries introducing the Euro. The Austrian economy benefits significantly from its involvement in the growing internal market. Around 70% of Austria’s foreign trade is with EU member states. Since its accession in 1995, Austrian exports have tripled and 13,000 new jobs have been created each year.
Art and Culture have played an important role in Austria, and until today Austria’s image abroad is to a large degree shaped by Austrian artists and artistic achievements. However, Austria with its rich history should also be perceived abroad as a future-oriented country. International cultural policy concentrates on presenting a modern image of Austria in the world. The focus is therefore on contemporary aspects of creative, cultural and scientific activities, supporting and promoting young artists and creative professionals living and working in Austria. The main priorities are the further development of the European project and the intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
Austria considers research, technology and innovation as driving forces for a sustainable increase in the performance and competitive potential of a society. Research carried out in Austria’s universities, research centres, in nearly 2000 small and medium-sized enterprises and in industry makes an important contribution to solving social challenges while ensuring competitiveness, economic growth and jobs.
Cutting-edge research and technology development from Austria stand for a plethora of outstanding achievements in a wide range of disciplines and research areas: from research into the ageing process to quantum physics, from nanotechnologies to cell analysis. Austria is a land of research and technology development that owes its prosperity and leading economic position as industrialised nation also to its achievements in science and research, its innovative capability and its technological know-how.
Austria attaches great importance to its relationship with Pakistan. Individual Austrian personalities did play significant roles in Pakistan’s early history like Leopold Weiss, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Mohammed Assad. He was co-author of the Pakistani constitution and Pakistan’s first representative to the United Nations. The wife of Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon (1957 – 1958), Viqar-un-Nisa Noon (née VictoriaRikhy), was Austrianand served as Pakistani Federal Minister for Tourism and Culture. Austrian mountaineers were prominently represented in climbing expeditions to the high peaks in the Karakorum, among them Hermann Buhl, who was the first to reach the summit of Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak in 1953.
Today Austrian Pakistan relations centre on business and educational post graduate programs. Last year, the bilateral trade volumeamounted to 200 million Euro, whereby Austrian exports increased by 7 % and Pakistani exports by 65 %. For the first half of 2015 the statistics show a volume of 120 million Euro, indicating an increase of Austrian exports by 80 %, and Pakistani exports by 26 %. Austria exports staple fibres for high quality textile exports, electrical machinery, gas turbine generators, textile machinery, plastic products and quality assurance services from TUV International. OMV, an Austrian oil and gas exploration company, is arguably the largest foreign investor in the gas production and exploration sector in Pakistan, especially in Sindh. Several Austrian companies are working in the energy sector in Pakistan, mainly in hydropower and alternative energy development projects, such as the solar industry. Andritz Technologies, for example, is one of the largest hydro power technology providers and has been involved in various projects and dams all over Pakistan. Orient Energy Systems is one of the leading multinational engineering companies in Pakistan, distributing power generation, industrial solution and services.
Pakistani companies and businessmen have shown keen interest in Austrian machinery and technology and have imported various customized machinery for their factories and businesses.
In the consumer market, Red Bull has become a well-known product.
The Austrian Trade Commission in Karachi (part of ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA) establishes contacts between Austrian and Pakistani companies and public institutions. It offers market and company research, organizes meetings and events like fact finding and trade missions, Austrian pavilions at trade fairs and technical seminars. The office accompanies Austrian businesses to enter the local market with legal advice and helps with administrative, financial and intercultural issues.
In a scholarship program, administered by the Austrian Exchange Service in cooperation with the Higher Education Commission, about 50 Pakistani students pursue PhD programmes in selected disciplines at Austrian universities. This program has been in existence since 2003 and the alumni are now mostly teaching or doing research in leading positions at Pakistani universities.
Enhanced cultural activities and bilateral exchange are planned for the future. Beginnings have been made with musical performances and exhibitions. An Austrian-Pakistani Music Festival is being prepared for 2016.