Austria has long-standing relationships with the countries of North Africa and the Maghreb. Regular contacts at working level as well as official visits at all political levels is evidence of the good state of relations with the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. In 2013, the 230-year anniversary of the Austrian-Moroccan relations reminded of the first diplomatic mission of the Sultan of Morocco to the imperial court in the spring of 1783 and the signing of a Peace, Friendship and Trade Treaty on 17 April 1783 in Vienna. Relations are also strengthened in the framework of the European Union by means of the reformed European Neighbourhood Policy towards the countries of the Southern Mediterranean as well as by the Union for the Mediterranean.
The flight of Tunisian President Ben Ali on 14 January 2014 after a popular uprising can be seen as the starting point of a series of ongoing transition process in the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. The transition processes of the so-called "Arab Spring" are an expression of the aspirations of the people for better living conditions and democratic participation in the politics of their country. Today, the respective states are still faced with varying degrees of socio-economic and security-related challenges. Due to recurrent crises the political transition has proven to be long and difficult. The ensuing political instability has at least temporarily undermined confidence in the ability to reform and to foster economic growth. In contrast the transition to a more open political system in Morocco runs less confrontational.
In addition to expanding political and economic relations with the countries of North Africa, Austria attaches great importance to the commitment and cooperation of the European Union with these States. The European Union supports the countries of North Africa in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy towards the Southern Neighbourhood, i.e. the framework of the "Partnership with the Southern Mediterranean for democracy and shared prosperity". In addition the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and, until the end of his mandate in June 2014, the Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean, support the transition to democracy through their personal engagement. Austria and the European Union advocate in particularly an inclusive political transition in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Another aspect of Austria's engagement in North Africa is represented by its relations with the League of Arab States.
League of Arab States
The League of Arab States is an International Organisation of Arab States that was found on 22 March 1945 in Cairo. Given the regional developments as well as the active role in the framework of the unresolved Middle East Conflict and the Syrian civil war the League of Arab States is an important partner for the European Union and Austria. The dialogue takes place at different levels.
Austria considers the regularly scheduled ministerial meetings between the European Union and the League of Arab States as an important opportunity for deepening and further institutionalizing the relations between the two regional organizations. The second joint meeting of foreign ministers of the League of Arab States and the European Union in November 2012 in Cairo adopted recommendations for a joint work program in the areas of energy, culture, human rights, humanitarian aid, crisis management and electoral processes.
In addition Austria has been accredited to the League of Arab States since 2013.
In view of implementing a special Austrian focus, the second "Arab-European Young Leaders Forum", jointly initiated by Austria and the League of Arab States, was held from 11 to 15 November 2012 in Cairo, dealing with responsible leadership on the path of transition to democracy and prosperity. By organising the third "Arab-European Young Leaders Forum" from 23 to 25 June 2014 in Vienna, Austria continues its efforts towards a vibrant and sustainable platform for young leaders from politics, civil society and business.