2 December 2002
Dear friends from Vietnam
Let me first of all repeat my expressions of gratitude to all those whos have made the event this evening possible and who have also honoured us with their presence.
I am particularly grateful to the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs ,Mrs.Benita Ferrero-Waldner for the message she conveyed to us through Ambassador Siegl and of course also to the Foreign Policy Society and the Diplomatic Academy to co-sponsor this event and, in the case of the latter,to host it so gracefully.
A particular word of gratitude also goes to Ambassador Hoang Van Nha and his assistants who will provide the particular Vietnamese flavour to this event, not least by providing delicacies of the Vietnamese cuisine that yu will later enjoy during our buffet.
We are gathered here tonight to commemorate but also to celebrate a significant event in Austrian diplomatic history and of course also in the history of Austro-Vietnamese relations.
The decision of the Austrian Federal Government ,then led by Bruno Kreisky as Federal Chancellor and Rudolf Kirchschlägr as Foreign Minister, to extend diplomatic recognition to what was then the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was not an ordinary, routine act of diplomacy.
.It carried political significance as it was meant to express support for a solution of a long and protracted conflict, that had caused immense human suffering, on the basis of self-determination and national sovereignty.At the same time it also contained a message of solidarity and sympathy to the Vietnamese people as a whole.
Support for selfdetermination and national sovereignty was indeed the guiding principles that Austria pursued in this period whenever it had to face, particularly in the United Nations, major conflicts which had their origins in colonial or post-colonial situations.
Strong attachment to this principle also explains why Austria, by this act of recognition, preceded the majority of other Western nations.
Vietnam’s path to full national sovereignty and self-determination was longer and more arduous than that of many other nations that emerged out of the colonial revolutions of the last century,ist road to freedom, now legendary ,made it a global symbol that raised global support.
The founding, some 25 years ago of the Austria Vietnam Society was another proof of the strong feelings of solidarity and sympathy so widely felt in many parts of Europe in some of the most difficult days of the Vietnamese people, whose spirit of sacrifice and self-abnegation was without comparison.
Let me say in passing that it would of course be wrong to assume that the history of Austrian-Vietnamese relations has started only 30 years ago,when the first great movements of solidarity with Vietnam swept the streets of Europe.
The fascination this unsual country with ist most unusual history
Has exerted on so many hearts and minds has also attracted some notable Austrians.Let me just quote here ,perhaps from the opposite parts of the spectrum, the names of Ernst Frey and Josef Buttinger.One of them Ernst Frey, under the name of Nguyen Dan, was a fighter in Ho Chi Minh’s armies while the other , an Austrian Social Democrat who found exile in the United States,offered thoughtful contributions to the American debate on the real nature of Vietnam.
In the last 30 years Vietnam has become a country greatly changed and still changing rapidly as our friend Werner Clement will tell us shorty in much more detail.
Today Vietnam, for the first time in ist long and tourmented historty can live in peace withitself and with ist neighbours.The years of peace have liberated the immense talents and energies of ist people that now occupies a respected and important central place among the peoples of South East Asia.
The delegation of our Society that I had the honour to lead to Hanoi ,HCMC and many other places in the North ,the Centre and the South of Viet Nam
Became fully aware of the immense progress made ,economically and socially over the past years.We were greatly impressed not only by the traditional hospitality and generosity of the Vietnamese people but also by many visible signs of dynamic change that promise to make Vietnam, in the span of only a few years one of the most advanced and modern economies and societies of south East Asia.
It also enjoys today a very high degree of stability , not only in financial and economic terms, that make it the envy of many of ist neighbouring nations beset by difficult and unsettled problems of change.This augurs well for Vietnam as a safe place to invest and develop, for ist economy in general or for ist blossoming tourist industry.
These tenden cies will improve even more to the degree that Vietnam pursues ist integration into the world economy such as ist future acquisition of membership in the WTO.
The relationshiop we celebrate today therefore is of a most promising and hopeful nature and in our meetings in Vietnam we were much encouraged by the interest of Vietnam’s policy makers to enter into closer economic but also political ties with Austria, inviting more Austrian investment and business ´relations.
The much discussed West Lake project in the heart of Hanoi,employing environmental know-how from Austria demonstrates the vast potential
That certainly exists in this regard.
We therefore believe that in the past 30 years a goood and sound basis for further development of our relations has been laid and that the future will offer Austria and Vietnam,also through our active memebership in regional organisations like the EU on the one hand and ASEAN on the other many new opportunities to develop and prosper together.
The success of this effort will depend on many initiatives ,of a governmental as well as on a non-governmental nature ,involving also grass root movements ,ordinary people in Austria as well as in Vietnam.
It is for this effort that our Society, the Austria Viet Nam society will continue to work in the future and I invite all of you ,members of our Society as well as old and new friends to join in this effort , to give a brilliant,meaningful future to the next decades of Austro-Vietnamese relations.