Remarks with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am delighted to welcome my colleague, the foreign minister of Austria, here to the State Department – he just told me – for the first time. And I am especially pleased that we’ve had this opportunity to reaffirm the bonds of friendship between our two countries, and I’ve already had an excellent working relationship with him.
U.S.-Austria relations are strong. They’re based on mutual interests and shared ideals. Today we discussed numerous areas of cooperation, from nonproliferation and global security, to the mission in Afghanistan, to peacekeeping in the Balkans and the Golan Heights.
I also want to thank the minister for his active participation on behalf of Austria in the United Nations Security Council. He and I have worked closely together on sanctions regarding Iran, and I appreciate his excellent work on that. We’ve worked together on Resolution 1325’s implementation regarding women’s participation in peace and security issues, and again today, where the minister spoke out strongly about the need for the parties in Sudan to move forward on implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
I was also pleased to see Austria’s cabinet extend the peacekeeping mission in the Balkans and on the Golan Heights. The 1,700 Austrian military police and civilian personnel serving in these missions have a profound global impact. I know that these men and women are far from their families and friends, but their work goes a long way to ensure a better and more stable future in the Western Balkans, in Kosovo, and in the Middle East and the Golan Heights.
I also want to thank Austria for the vital customs and police training to help Afghans assume greater control of their own peace and security efforts. There is so much we have to talk about and work on, and the minister mentioned a number of other issues that Austria is taking the lead on, including an important anticorruption effort, a new commitment to disarmament and nonproliferation, and so much else.
So thank you very much for being here, Michael.
FOREIGN MINISTER SPINDELEGGER: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. It’s a great pleasure for me having spent the whole day with you, the morning in New York and the afternoon in Washington.
Of course, this was a wonderful meeting, just having a focus on the cooperation between the United States and Austria. And I think, as you mentioned, there are a lot of different issues where we can also cooperate in the future.
We had the experience for two years in the Security Council dealing with the United Nations and, of course, having a partner in United States of America. And for us, it was a very good experience to be with you in protecting civilians in armed conflicts, in the Resolution 1325 about women, peace, and security, and also in the case of Sudan. Today, we had a meeting in the Security Council where I think the outcome was the right one, just to have a good ground of cooperating between the South and the North.
And of course, we have been talking today about further engagement in the Balkans. I think we, as Austrians, will keep the United States informed about all of the developments in Kosovo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and all the other issues we have to face. These are challenges where we are much more close to this area, and we would like to keep you informed and to cooperate with you in this field.
And we had a lot of other opportunities and plans we presented today to you, and I think this a very good reason for you to come to Austria and to deepen our relations also in the future. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Michael.
FOREIGN MINISTER SPINDELEGGER: Great pleasure.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Time for just a couple of questions. First Hanno Settele from the Austrian National Press.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, in your – during your recent visit to Bosnia, you pretty much criticized Bosnian authorities for not pushing hard enough in their efforts to join the European Union. In your opinion, do you think we need something like a Dayton Treaty number two after 15 years?
And in the same line of questioning, joining the European Union, there is considerable opposition towards Turkey joining the European Union amongst many member states. America is heavily in favor of such a introduction into the European Union. Do you consider changing your stance on this in the light of the European people, many of them not really being in favor for it? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first with respect to Bosnia-Herzegovina, I very much appreciate the strong partnership that the United States and the European Union and individual countries such as Austria have with us in continuing our efforts to help bring about changes for the benefit of the people in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
We all believe that there needs to be constitutional reform in order for the government to function more effectively. I made it clear when I was in Sarajevo that we support the continuation of the Office of High Representative until there is such time when we believe that the government is willing to address the issues that are still unresolved amongst the various communities.
But I was delighted when the European Union offered visa liberalization to Bosnia-Herzegovina. I thought that was a very strong vote of confidence in the people and what the people, particularly the young people, need and are able to contribute to Europe. I met with about 400 young people in one of the theaters there, and I was very impressed. Whether they were Bosniac, Serbian, or Croat, they were very committed to a better future. And so we’re going to continue to work together. The minister will be co-sponsoring a conference on reconstruction and stabilization in December on the Balkans. So we’re going to keep at it because we think it’s very important.
With respect to Turkey, the United States, along with many other countries in Europe, support the membership of Turkey inside the EU. I know that it is an issue that divides the European Union. We don’t have a vote, but if we were a member, we would be strongly in favor of it.
Do you want to say something about what you’re doing on the Balkans?
FOREIGN MINISTER SPINDELEGGER: Of course. Maybe I can add something. You have been mentioning that we are organizing a conference in Berlin in the beginning of December, and I think this is the right moment. We have been agreeing to that during our meeting that we should pay more attention to all that what is happening now, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They are forming a new government, and this is the right moment just to give them advice that we are expecting constitutional reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And we agreed about that. There is also the time to give some pressure to them to do so.
MODERATOR: Christophe Prantner, Die Presse.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. As you mentioned before, you have met the minister quite often in last couple of months. Is there anything special the U.S. is expecting from Austria, let’s say concerning letting in Guantanamo detainees or doing more in Afghanistan, let’s say with policemen, or is it enough for Vienna to give away a chocolate cake from time to time? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the leadership that Austria is showing on a range of issues is very important and welcome, not only to Europe but to the United States. And the success of the training mission that Austria is running with the customs officials in Afghanistan certainly suggests that it would be most helpful if Austria could extend that, add more civilian trainers, because the faster we can train up the Afghan military, police, and governmental officers, the faster they can take charge of their own security. We also welcome a lot of the leadership initiatives like the one I mentioned on anticorruption, which is important.
We were very gratified that Austria added to its mission in Kosovo because we think that is essential now that we’re working hard and, as Michael said, focused on the Balkans together. We want to make progress together, but we have to stay alert and help create the conditions for the mediation that the EU will run between Serbia and Kosovo. So there’s an important role that Austria is playing, and it’s one that we’re very happy to see because we admire the capacity that they bring to these endeavors.
Thank you all.