Relations to the neighbouring countries form a regional priority of Austria’s foreign policy. Austria, therefore, pays special attention to the relations to the countries in its immediate and closer neighbourhood (Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland).
Longstanding historical links, common borders, geographical similarities, especially in the Alpine and Danube regions, intense economic interrelations (trade with the immediate neighbours accounts for more than half of Austria’s trade flows) and close cultural exchange are factors of particular relevance in this respect. Moreover, neighbourly cooperation today is very much part of the European integration process, as for example in the framework of European regional cooperation programmes.
In the course of the major EU-enlargement of 2004 cooperation and daily interchange between Austria and its neighbours, in particular the formerly communist states, have been put on a fundamentally new basis. Austria’s bilateral relations to the countries which joined in 2004 have since reached an entirely new quality. Neighbourly relations became ever closer at all levels – be it government, regions, or municipalities. Since 2004, Austria’s exports to Central and Eastern Europe nearly tripled.
Among Austria’s neighbouring countries, only Switzerland and Liechtenstein do not belong to the EU. Switzerland’s relations to the EU are governed by a comprehensive set of agreements; Liechtenstein is member of the European Economic Area (EEA). With Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland meetings are held regularly at the levels of the four heads of state, foreign ministers and other ministers concerned. Cross-border exchange with these countries is also facilitated by the factor of shared language.