New Austria-House in Minsk Expected to Strengthen Relations with Belarus

Published: January 15, 2019; 18:39 · (Vindobona)

The Austrian Embassy, the Consulate and the Foreign Trade Office (Advantage Austria) are now under one roof. Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl met her Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei and visited the Stone of remembrance - The Massif of Names in Maly Trostinec, where almost 10,000 Austrian Jews were murdered during World War II.

Austria-House in Minsk: By opening the Austria House in Minsk, the bilateral relations will be strengthened. / Picture: © BMEIA Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs / Twitter

Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl travelled to Belarus on 15 January to hold talks with her counterpart Vladimir Makei and to open the Austrian House, which houses the embassy, consulate and foreign trade office.

"During our talks with Vladimir Makei, we were able to look back on the good cooperation between our two countries and discuss future activities. Our talks also focused on close economic cooperation. Austria is the largest Western investor in Belarus. We want to expand these relations further," said Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

The Eastern Partnership of the European Union celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2019. At the same time Belarus celebrates "100 years of Belarusian diplomacy".

"The Eastern Partnership was one of the priorities of the Austrian EU Presidency. Last year in particular, there were many points of contact. Austria supports Belarus in being an independent member of the international community between East and West. Our countries agree on many issues, but we also have differences. I am thinking in particular of the issue of the death penalty. For Austria, the worldwide abolition of the death penalty remains a priority of our foreign policy. We are committed to a worldwide moratorium as a first step in this direction," stressed the Foreign Minister.

 

 

During her visit, the Foreign Minister also got an idea of the construction progress on the memorial on the site of Maly Trostinec.

In June 2018, Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen turned the first spade for the "Stone of remembrance - The Massif of Names. Memorial for the Austrian Jews murdered in Maly Trostinec, Minsk".

"The largest number of fellow Jewish citizens from Austria was murdered in Maly Trostinec between 1941 and 1943. Belarus enables us to set a visible sign of remembrance through a memorial," says Karin Kneissl.

According to the "National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism", Daniel Sanwald's project "Das Massiv der Namen" (The Massif of Names) is a memorial to the approximately 10,000 Austrians of Jewish origin who were deported from Vienna to Minsk in the months between May and October 1942 and murdered at the Maly Trostinec site of extermination.

On the occasion of her visit, the Foreign Minister also opened the new premises of the Austrian Embassy in Minsk.

"Following the establishment of our Embassy in Belarus in 2016, it is a great pleasure for me to open these premises today. With the Austrian House, which houses not only the embassy but also the consulate and the foreign trade office, we are pooling our competences in one place," concluded the Foreign Minister.

 

 

As reported by Vindobon.org, on 9 February 2016, the Austrian Embassy in Minsk was officially opened by the former Secretary General for Foreign Affairs Michael Linhart.

The opening of the embassy was an important element in the restructuring process launched by former Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to bring about a strategic re-orientation of the diplomatic representation network.

"Austria is thus sending out a signal that the EU's immediate neighbourhood is one of its foreign policy priorities", Linhart pointed out at that time.

Since September 2013 Austria had been represented in Minsk by an Austrian diplomat from the Embassy in Moscow.

"Bilateral relations have evolved substantially over the last few years and particularly the significant investments by Austrian companies in Belarus seemed to make the opening of an embassy necessary. We are convinced that this step will add further momentum to intensifying mutual relations", Secretary General Linhart stated.

Belarus has designated 2017 as the year of culture. For this reason, Austria has decided to place special emphasis on cultural matters from autumn 2016 onwards.

The human rights situation in the country has clearly improved over the last few months.

Hence the EU is currently discussing the potential lifting of sanctions imposed on Belarus, and in this context Austria supports lifting these sanctions completely.