Remember those days when public figures from world leaders to diplomats did not have a Twitter account? We asked Eva Nowotny, Austria's first and only female ambassador to the U.S., to recollect her time in DC in more than 140 characters:
"During my professional life, I have spent eleven years posted in the United States. In addition, I have visited the US numerous times, on business as well as privately. Thus, I have gotten to know the country quite well and have experienced it under different circumstances during different phases of its political and social development. The years 2003-2008, when I was privileged to represent Austria as Ambassador to the United States, were rather difficult ones for European Ambassadors. Transatlantic relations were strained and we had to deal with many issues, in which US and EU did not see eye to eye – the Iraq war, the so-called “war on terror”, Guantanamo, the consequences of the Patriot act, pro and contra of sanctions on Iran, to name just a few. The regular contacts with the Administration and with Congress were often contentious and uncomfortable.
On the other side, it was always possible to enjoy the genuine friendliness of the American people, their spontaneous warmth and the generous hospitality with which I was received wherever I went, from Florida to Alaska. Not so long ago, the London Economist described Washington as the intellectual capital of the United States and indeed there is an incredibly rich intellectual life in this city, emanating from its plethora of think tanks and academic institutions which are open and welcoming also for the participation of foreign diplomats – something I have always regarded as the greatest and most rewarding boon of our profession.
A particular highlight of my years in Washington without doubt was the first half of 2006, the six months during which Austria held the Presidency of the European Union. During those six months, the Austrian Embassy in Washington conducted all negotiations and consultations within the 27 EU Embassies, in 19 different working groups, and was the first contact point and interlocutor for the US administration on many political transatlantic issues. We plunged right into it on January 1st, at 8.00 am with a phone call from the State Department concerning the Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis. I had my grandchildren visiting from Vienna for the Christmas holidays and they were terribly excited – “we are in a crisis, we are in crisis”! Looking back, I have the feeling that for six months the phone did not stop ringing! For all Austrian diplomats, who worked at the Embassy during that period, myself included, this was a fascinating, strenuous, stimulating and all in all most interesting experience."
Dr. Eva Nowotny, Austria's former Ambassador to the United States, in March 2017