Foreign Policy Report 2021 Puts Security in Europe in the Spotlight

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: October 19, 2022; 11:52 ♦ (Vindobona)

The recently presented Europe and Foreign Policy Report 2021 outlines the foreign policy problems and challenges that Austria, but also Europe, had to deal with in the past year.

Even before the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, security was a priority in European foreign policy. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / böhringer friedrich [CC BY-SA 2.5]

The recently published European and Foreign Policy Report on the year 2021 provides information on the foreign policy problems and challenges that Austria, but also Europe, had to deal with last year.

Even before the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, security was a special priority in European foreign policy, the document revealed. In this context, the central importance of a clear EU perspective of the Western Balkan states for their peaceful and stable development is emphasised.

Austria's appeal not to further delay accession negotiations with countries of South-Eastern Europe was partially followed in July 2022, when the EU opened accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia.

An important part of foreign policy was joint EU cooperation on peacekeeping. To this end, a new extra-budgetary EU funding instrument, the European Peace Facility (EFF), was created in March 2021 to enable the EU to take more responsibility for its security.

Then, in November of the previous year, the first draft of the so-called Strategic Compass for Security and Defence in the EU was presented. It focuses on crisis management, the development of civilian and military capabilities, the strengthening of resilience and the expansion of EU partnerships with other international organisations and third countries.

According to the report, Austria participates in various projects within the framework of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (SCC) established in 2017, including protection against nuclear, biological and chemical threats.

Furthermore, Austria attaches great importance to the role of the Western Balkans in the peaceful further development of Europe. Austria also provided concrete support in the pre-accession process of the Southern European countries to the EU through EU-funded administrative partnerships (twinnings), through secondments of experts and online events to strengthen public administration.

Within the framework of an administrative partnership, Austria supported, for example, Montenegro in setting up an EU-compatible inventory of pollutant emissions, Albania in the area of personal data protection and strengthening the customs administration, Bosnia and Herzegovina in setting up the veterinary sector according to EU standards and in tax issues.

Northern Macedonia cooperated in the EU 4 Fight Against Cybercrime project, on tax and customs policy issues. Serbia received assistance in introducing climate-friendly forest management. The EU will provide €14.2 billion in financial reform assistance for the Western Balkans until 2027.

In the promotion of peace and security as well as in support in the fight against crime and terrorism, Austria, with Vienna as the official seat of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), makes an important contribution, said the BMEIA.

The domestic anti-terrorism package, adopted as a result of the terrorist attack in Vienna on 2 November 2020, was flanked at the foreign policy level by an intensified international exchange of information.

The attack had made clear how important networking with European and international partners is in the fight against extremist movements and terrorism.Humanitarian and economic crises favour extremism, as was demonstrated by the rise of Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan after the Taliban took power on 15 August 2021.

Although Austria rejects the recognition of the Taliban government, the Foreign Office is committed to humanitarian aid for the Afghan civilian population, especially for girls and women, who have suffered particularly under the Taliban regime. 18 million were made available by Austria for this purpose in 2021 from the resources of the Foreign Disaster Fund (AKF) and shortly thereafter topped up with € 2 million from the resources of Austrian Development Cooperation.

The Corona pandemic shaped Austria's neighbourhood policy last year, as combating the COVID 19 crisis, including its social and economic consequences, was a central topic in all foreign policy contacts with neighbouring countries.

In the view of the Foreign Office, cross-border challenges such as combating the pandemic require good neighbourly relations, which is why Austria is very interested in intensifying cooperation in regional formats, such as the "Central Five" with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Austrian Parliament