Austria's Immediate Past Presidency of the European Council
Ambassador Eva Nowotny is the official representative of the Republic of Austria in the United States and is responsible for all aspects of the relationship between the two countries. On December 04, 2003 she presented her credentials to President George W. Bush at the White House. She is also Permanent Representative of the Observer Mission of Austria to the Organization of American States (OAS) and Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Cosponsored by the Consulate General of Austria, Los Angeles http://www.austria.org
In this presentation, Ambassador Nowotny offers her thoughts on Austria's recent six month presidency of the European Union, which she points out has fostered an increase in positive attitudes toward the EU on behalf of Austrian citizens. While 2005 was a difficult year for the EU in light of the French and Dutch rejections of the latest treaty and disagreement about enlargement policy especially with respect to Turkey, the Austrian presidency has "reestablished a cooperative climate" and a degree of optimism to the European Union. Several unexpected events early in Austria's presidency presented challenges, including Russia's decision to stop the flow of Gazprom gas to Ukraine, the Maoist uprising in Nepal, and Iran's declaration that it would continue developing nuclear weapons. Austria used these challenges as an opportunity to reinvigorate discussion of foreign policy and negotiate a coherent EU response to international conflicts.
The ambassador then highlights key issues dominating Austria's presidency. These include the debate over the future of Europe, centering on the constitutional treaty and enlargement; the internal development of the European project, especially fostering economic competitiveness and addressing crime and terrorism; and the role of Europe in the world, where Austria has contributed strongly by helping to resolve conflicts like those in the Balkans, and helping to develop Europe's "neighborhood policy."
Finally, Ambassador Nowotny emphasizes the importance of the transatlantic relationship, which she feels the US and Europe attach equal weight to. Key areas of cooperation in years to come will include resolving international conflicts and dealing with crises, fostering the transatlantic economic partnership, improving international governance structures, and combatting terrorism.
A discussion session following the presentation raised such questions as: Where are there differences between the interests of Austria and of the European Union? In a post-9/11 world, do we have the institutional structure necessary to deal with new issues such as terrorism, and can we rely on those left over from WWII (NATO, OSCE, etc.)? Does Austria approach Southern and Eastern European countries as one group or does it prefer to deal with them individually?