Secretary General Michael Linhart: Belarus acts as an important bridge

Opening of embassy in Minsk marks implementation of Austrian diplomatic representation network's restructuring process.

Foreign Secretary General, Michael Linhart, opens the Austrian Embassy in Minsk. 9 February 2016. Picture: MFA Belarus

Foreign Secretary General, Michael Linhart, opens the Austrian Embassy in Minsk. 9 February 2016. Picture: MFA Belarus

On 9 February 2016, the Austrian Embassy in Minsk was officially opened by the Secretary General for Foreign Affairs Michael Linhart. The opening of the embassy is an important element in the restructuring process launched by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to bring about a strategic re-orientation of the diplomatic representation network. “Austria is thus sending out a signal that the EU’s immediate neighbourhood is one of its foreign policy priorities“, Linhart pointed out. Since September 2013 Austria had been represented in Minsk by an Austrian diplomat from the Embassy in Moscow.

“Bilateral relations have evolved substantially over the last few years and particularly the significant investments by Austrian companies in Belarus seemed to make the opening of an embassy necessary. We are convinced that this step will add further momentum to intensifying mutual relations”, Secretary General Linhart stated. Belarus has designated 2017 as the year of culture. For this reason, Austria has decided to place special emphasis on cultural matters from autumn 2016 onwards.

The human rights situation in the country has clearly improved over the last few months. Hence the EU is currently discussing the potential lifting of sanctions imposed on Belarus, and in this context Austria supports lifting these sanctions completely. “It is in the interest of Austria and the EU that Belarus should take its cue from European standards and values. This is the only way for the immediate neighbourhood of the EU to benefit in the economic, political and social spheres and to contribute to stability.

We can surely have no interest in incomplete relations with our neighbours“, Linhart stressed, adding that “this does not, however, involve having to take “either-or” decisions. The states that belong to the European Union’s Eastern Partnership serve an important function as a bridge”. On 25 January 2016 Austria's representative in Minsk, Alexander Bayerl, presented his credentials to President Alexander Lukashenko. Thus, Austria is as of now represented by an ambassador.

 

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