The Year of Deepening Georgian-Austrian Ties

It should be stressed that the year 2015 has been a very important year in terms of deepeningcooperation between Georgia and the Republic of Austria. In this regard, I would primarily mention the first ever state visit of Austria’s Federal President, Heinz Fischer to Georgia in May this year. During his visit, the Federal President reiterated Austria’s unwavering support to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. It should be noted that the Austrian President visited Georgia two days prior to the EU-Eastern Partnership Riga Summit, which is clearly an expression of Austria’s strong support for Georgia’s European aspirations.

The Republic of Austria has been rather steadfastly supporting Georgia’s European course in 2015. A clear evidence of this is the ratification of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement by the National Assembly (Parliament) of Austria on July 8th this year. Since I mentioned the Association Agreement, I would also like to recall the visit of the acting President of the National Assembly of Austria, Karlheinz Kopf to Georgia in July last year. At the end of his two day visit, Mr. Kopf took a decision to extend his stay in Georgia for two more days, so that he couldattend and address the historical plenary session at the Georgian Parliament in Kutaisi, where the EU-Georgia Association Agreement was unanimously ratified. This extraordinary decision of theAustrian politician also demonstrates Austria’s as well as his great personal support towards Georgia’s European choice.

Another very important step in terms of deepening bilateral ties between Georgia and Austria,was the decision to open the embassy of Austria in Georgia, while closing its diplomatic missions in Baltic States. This decision was announced by Austria’s Federal Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz in June this year. According to Mr. Kurz, Austria should focus on the countries thathave particularly tense relations with Russia. He also said that Russian threat to Georgia is much higher than in Baltic States, which are already members of EU and NATO. In short, Austria’s decision to open the Embassy in Georgia clearly demonstrates Austrian side’s particular interest towards our country and the region.

As for our activities within the OSCE, considering the current security challenges that Georgia faces, our activities and efforts within the OSCE are mainly directed towards restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity, de-occupation of the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, safe and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons and the protection of fundamental rights of people residing in the occupied regions of Georgia. Georgia regards the OSCE as a vital international forum for mobilizing and consolidating international community’s support to the issues raised by Georgia. It should also be noted that the OSCE is actively involvedin the Geneva International Discussions.

H.E. Konstantin Zaldastanishvili - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to the Republic of Austria, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the OSCE and other International Organizations in Vienna