Federal Minister Sebastian Kurz honours staff with Citizens’ Desk Award in the context of Consular and Administration Conference.
"The Foreign Ministry’s motto is 'At Your Service Worldwide'. This can, however, only be achieved with professional staff working in Vienna and all over the world who are dedicated to providing support to Austrian citizens every day of the year – and if necessary around the clock", Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz highlighted. In this spirit, the annual Citizens’ Desk Award for special services is presented by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz during the Consular and Administration Conference to teams and members of staff that have undertaken special efforts.
In view of the innumerable tasks and consular cases it is very difficult to limit the number of award winners to only a few employees. Staff work with enormous commitment and dedication, in many cases performing services that go beyond their normal every day work and often in difficult and even dangerous conditions. However, as it is nevertheless necessary to select “winners", this year’s first place goes to Lukas Bachmayer from the Embassy in Islamabad, second place to Marion Kofler from the Embassy in Cairo and third place to Karin Schwärzler from the Embassy in Caracas and the team award goes to the team from the Embassy in Budapest. "The Citizens’ Desk Award is presented in recognition of the winners’ personal services, but it also serves to recognise colleagues who work day in day out, providing services, help and assistance quickly, efficiently and always with a human touch. A special word of thanks goes to all those colleagues working in places that have been hit by terror attacks and who perform unparalleled work. They often put their own interests and concerns last, always focusing on ensuring safety and security for all Austrians on the ground and providing consular assistance”, Foreign Minister Kurz emphasised.
The Consular and Administration Conference is organised every year at the premises of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs. This event serves as a platform for colleagues who hold positions as chancellors or consuls at Austrian embassies and consulates abroad to meet, share ideas and news on the latest developments relating to their areas of activities and take part in training seminars. These colleagues hold consular-administrative career positions within the Foreign Ministry and are responsible for consular matters and general administrative tasks. Their range of related activities includes, for instance, provision of information on consular matters and assistance to Austrians who find themselves in difficulties abroad as well as taking protective measures in the event of crises, processing citizenship, visa and passport related matters, providing services related to Austrians serving a prison sentence abroad, providing support in handling requests for mutual administrative and judicial assistance as well as services to Austrians living abroad, to name but a few.
Austrians who live or travel abroad make active use of the comprehensive range of services provided by the Foreign Ministry. In 2015, for instance, Ministry staff answered more than 30,000 calls received by the Citizens’ Desk. In addition, the travel information and Citizens’ Desk services sections on the Foreign Ministry’s website – which are regularly updated in consultation with the respective representation authorities – are accessed on average 300,000 to 500,000 times per month. This information can also be accessed via the Auslandsservice APP (foreign service app). The number of hits is particularly high during the holiday season. In 2015, Citizens’ Desk and representation authorities’ staff handled a total of 1,919 consular cases which involved mainly deaths abroad, including subsequent repatriation of remains or urns, and providing support to Austrians leaving the respective country. As of 1 July, some twenty major incidents involving Austrians abroad (terrorist attacks, earthquakes, accidents, etc.) have been handled by Ministry staff this year.