May 08th 2017

Austria’s role in the world

Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs and current Chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, visits the Entrepreneurial School®

It was a special day when MCI had the honor to welcome Foreign Minister and OSCE Chair-in-Office, Sebastian Kurz: the event was part of the MCI Alumni & Friends lecture series and jointly organized by the Entrepreneurial School® and the Tyrol Federation of Austrian Industries.

In an animated and interesting panel session, hosted by MCI Rector Andreas Altmann, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz faced questions and discussion contributions of students, lecturers, and executives from industry as well as friends and other stakeholders of the Entrepreneurial School®.

More than 800 guests seized the opportunity to gain first-hand information and views about Austria’s role in the world and answers to questions of global dimension, European policy, international peacekeeping, migration, integration, and the regular responsibilities to be met both nationally and internationally. The event was another highlight of the MCI Alumni & Friends academic lecture series and in the history of the Entrepreneurial Schoo ®.

Foreign Minister Kurz began his talk by pointing out that our economy, society, and politics are characterized by unprecedented volatility and dynamics. Conflicts in the Ukraine, in Turkey, but also in distant countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Lybia have an impact on Austria. As an export-oriented country whose wealth is dependent on the economic ties and political cooperation with other countries, Austria is strongly affected by the negative influence of this instability, as is the whole of Europe.

In answer to the question about what a sustainable concept for the European Union could look like, the Foreign Minister expressed his support of the principle of subsidiarity. Kurz believes that there are areas from which the European Union should withdraw its influence. Since the European states are culturally, economically, and politically distinct in many ways, Kurz considers it necessary to reduce central regulation on individual questions, and to foster the autonomy of member states. Yet, in the context of foreign policy and border protection, Kurz promotes an in part even closer cooperation than before.

Moreover, Kurz supports an enlargement of the European Union to include the Western Balkans, provided all the required criteria are met. The Foreign Minister is well aware of the fact that these countries are torn between Russian and European interests, but he is convinced that this conflict can be resolved. Although the cultural proximity to Russia cannot be changed, it should still be in the interest of the EU, and the states concerned, to follow up on the EU perspective of including the Balkans. However, Kurz does not consider Turkey entering the EU an option as, in his view, the country is increasingly moving away from democratic and constitutional principles and additionally raising issues of political Islamism. Therefore, accession negotiations with Turkey should be abandoned immediately. A different form of cooperation between neighboring states should be sought. A similar approach could be adopted in the redefinition of partnership with Great Britain, despite its distinct position.

Kurz concluded his talk by explaining his view on how to deal with illegal migrants to the EU. In his opinion, it would be most effective to step up local assistance. This is why, since the beginning of his term of office, he had quadrupled the means of the Foreign Disaster Fund of Austria. As Kurz stated, the poorest of the poor could generally not afford to leave their country. Consequently, one would have to invest into the regions themselves, improving their prospects and creating legal ways of controlled migration based on resettlement programs. At the same time, one would need to crush the smugglers’ basis of business and return illegal migrants that have been stopped and provided for at the outer borders to their home countries or to homes for asylum-seekers in safe third countries. Only thus could the increasing number of fatalities on the Mediterranean Sea be curbed and other excesses stopped.

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Dr. Peter Schwazer
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