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Austria: neighbour and partner Austria

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg at their joint press conference

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg at their joint press conference, © Janine Schmitz/photothek.net

19.02.2020 - Article

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas received his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg for his first official visit today.

Alongside the two countries’ close bilateral relationship, their talks focused on the situation in Libya and the next meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism in Geneva on 24 February.

Close bilateral relations

Germany and Austria enjoy very close linguistic, cultural and economic ties. Germany is by far Austria’s most important trading partner. In the first half of 2019, Germany accounted for around 35 percent of all Austrian imports and just under 30 percent of exports. With more than one third of all overnight stays, Germans are also the most important guests for the Austrian tourism sector. Furthermore, an estimated 300,000 Germans live in Austria. Bilateral cooperation between authorities and ministries at federal and Land level and coordination within the EU are therefore also close and characterised by a spirit of trust.

The EU’s role in Libya

An important topic of discussion between the two Foreign Ministers was the EU’s planned commitment to monitoring the arms embargo in Libya, which the 27 EU Foreign Ministers had agreed to at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels earlier this week. To this end, Operation Sophia is to be terminated in its present form and replaced by a new mission to monitor the arms embargo also comprising maritime components in the eastern Mediterranean. The talks between the two Foreign Ministers focused on outstanding issues and the steps to be taken towards implementing the general agreement reached on Monday.

Working together to foster multilateralism

A further meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism will take place in Geneva on 24 February, and Foreign Minister Schallenberg has already confirmed his attendance. Impunity and humanitarian assistance will be at the top of the agenda at this meeting. The two Foreign Ministers held discussions on how the operative projects of the Alliance for Multilateralism can be advanced and the initiative’s potential for mobilisation further expanded.

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