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Sheikh Abdullah meets President of Austria's Federal Council

posted on 12/06/2013: 1440 views

Vienna: H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, and Edgar Mayer, President of the Federal Council of the Republic of Austria, met on Monday and discussed issues of cooperation and friendly relations between their two countries in parliamentary, economic and investment spheres.

H.H Sheikh Abdullah emphasised the importance of exchanging parliamentary visits aimed at promoting cooperation, exchanging expertise in education and healthcare, and building bridges between the two peoples.

Also on Monday, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, opened the new building of the UAE Embassy in Vienna.

The 6.8 million Euro, five-storey building houses the offices of the UAE Embassy, the UAE Consulate and the offices of the UAE Permanent Mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

After unveiling a plaque to commemorate the occasion, the Foreign Minister toured the new building, expressing admiration for its design.

He urged the staff of the Embassy to provide assistance and services to Emiratis, including facilities for business people and hospital patients, as well as promotion of the image of the UAE.

Mohammed Hamad Omran, UAE Ambassador to Austria, and Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the IAEA were present at the Embassy opening ceremony.

Sheikh Abdullah, in a statement to the Austrian newspaper Kurier said, "Austria is a friend of the United Arab Emirates. Although this might not immediately be evident to everyone, figures underpinning the bilateral relationship between the UAE and Austria speak volumes.

These figures include the high rate of visitors between the two countries. Emirates Airlines operate 13 flights every week between the capital of Austria, Vienna and Dubai, the major travel and business hub in the Arabian Gulf. This means that in an average week, over 4,000 passengers board flights in either city to make the five-and-a-half hour journey across the Mediterranean. They travel for business or pleasure; and all of them enjoy Emirati hospitality on board an Emirates plane.

There is no doubt that business is an important driver of this close relationship between our two countries. 36 Austrian companies operate directly in the UAE and 336 Austrian companies are represented there by an agent. Moreover, the UAE is home to close to 1,800 Austrians who live and work there. Last year, over 10,000 UAE nationals visited Austria for tourist purposes, business, or to receive healthcare. Austria is an important European destination for the UAE and last year, both countries exchanged close to EURO 460 million worth of goods and services in mutual trade and investment; a significant amount for both our countries.

Another important aspect is the cooperation between our countries in the field of natural energy resources. Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) has become the second largest shareholder in Austria's OMV with 24.9% of shares. I visited OMV and saw with my own eyes what this joint operation of two influential companies from different continents can amount to. One illustration of the formidable potential of joining forces is the concession that has been granted to OMV (together with Wintershall from Germany) to develop a sour gas field at Jebel Dhanna off the UAE's coast in the Arabian Gulf.

In my discussions with Foreign Minister Dr. Michael Spindelegger yesterday, we explored ways to expand our economic relations. But this was not the only issue on the agenda. We also discussed regional and global issues where the UAE and Austria share mutual interests, many of which relate to the security of the Middle East and Europe. In the past, we have successfully cooperated in the Balkans to ensure stability between countries and work towards peace and security for the affected populations. We both share deep concerns about the current situation in Syria, where the civil war is now in its third year and levels of suffering remain shocking. Furthermore, both Austria and the UAE support the concerted international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But the most important aspect of mutual friendship is enhancing the ease of movement between our two countries. Austrian citizens, along with most Europeans, are granted free 30-day visas upon arrival to the UAE. The UAE is asking that its citizens be granted similar access to the countries of the Schengen Area, in recognition of the excellent relations between the UAE and Europe, and of the significant economic contribution of Emirati activities on the continent. Too often, Emirati citizens are stopped at European borders and turned away because of unclear, complex, and restrictive visa-regulations.

In the coming weeks, the European Union is expected to make an important decision on the expansion of the list of countries that are granted visa-free access to the Schengen Area. Given the clear mutual benefits of this move, the UAE is counting on the support of its friends, including Austria, to become part of this list.

The UAE is proud to call itself a friend of Austria and a friend of Europe. We are happy to continue to contribute to this friendship and to continue investing and spending in Europe. In return, the UAE expects to be treated as a friend, including upon arrival at Europe's borders. – Emirates News Agency, WAM


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