April 20, 2019

An Austrian update on Netherlands and EU Relations

Sitting in a grand living room surrounded by unique Austrian paintings and beautiful mirrors belonging to the ancient house of Austria, the property of her government for more than 30 years, H.E. Ambassador Heidemaria Gürer talks fluently about how Austria is doing and the present state of the nation’s relationship with the Netherlands.

Ambassador Gürer is the head of the Austrian Diplomatic mission, also acting as a representative to some 50 bilateral and multilateral organizations sitting in the Netherlands. Some have commented that she is the most accessible, open and friendly Austrian ambassador to have graced the Netherlands; perhaps it is her background, rich in experiences in unfamiliar countries, that forms the primary reason why ambassador Gürer is so comfortable with all those who have the pleasure of meeting her.

On October 26th 2018 Austria celebrated its 63rd year of independence. 2018 is also a year of celebrations and reflection as the country celebrates the Centenary of the proclamation of the second Republic of Austria. In the spirit of such celebrations, it’s poignant to note that Dutch-Austrian economic relations are excellent and expanding all the time.

Companies big and small are doing very well. For example SAG produces aluminum here, and in Rotterdam roads and bridges are constructed by Austrian firm Strabag. Clearly, Austria is doing very well and making an impact here in infrastructure, architecture and industry. After Germany, the Netherlands is Austria’s largest market.

Our tourism industry is also expanding in a good direction, it is a special phenomenon attaching us to one-another: during the war many Dutch were in Austria and returning to visit is a kind of ritual for many; with a number coming for both summer and winter holidays. In fact Austria plays host to a great number of Dutch people coming to take advantage of the unique après ski. Now we share a ski Olympic champion, Marcel Hirscher. His mother is Dutch and his father Austrian, and both countries are immensely proud of him.

We have a very rich cultural agenda in the Netherlands that maintains artists from every field, enabling them to flow in both directions. The Embassy has taken advantage of the Presidency of the European Union and given bilateral relations a strong boost. It has been a welcome stepping stone for the organization of many meetings and exchanges in the cultural, economic, scientific and political fields. In the case of the latter, it is pleasing that after twenty three and a half years an Austrian Chancellor has visited the Netherlands again.

Ten days ago, Sebastian Kurz was here with us in The Hague at the invitation of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. During the visit, Federal Chancellor Kurz acknowledged the similar outlooks shared by the Netherlands and Austria by stating that the Netherlands is “the country in the EU with the most identical positions [to Austria]”. Building upon the success of Federal Chancellor Kurz’s visit, there is an upcoming official visit to the Netherlands next month of the Austrian Federal President with that beautiful Dutch name: Alexander Van der Bellen. It is already twenty six years ago that the then Austrian head of state Thomas Klestil made a state visit to the Netherlands. What we are seeing are milestones in the 360 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

In the context of the current Austrian EU Council Presidency, almost all Dutch ministers are now in Vienna for bilateral talks with their counterparts. Additionally the EU presidency will bring political contacts to Austria, with the current priorities, in accordance with its motto “A Europe that protects”, being: migration, the digitalization of the economy and the EU, and EU enlargement in South Eastern Europe.


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