World Bulletin/News Desk
Austrian Ambassador to Turkey Klaus Wölfer has said bilateral relations between Turkey and Austria have strengthened rapidly in recent years.
Speaking to Today's Zaman, Wölfer underlined that many Austrians come to Turkey to spend their vacations, to attend academic conferences or business meetings. “These connections have strengthened ties in recent years and contributed to the quality of relations between the two countries,” he said.
The Austrian envoy emphasized that the negative perception of Turkey in Austria has been changing as well.
Austria, the lead investor in Turkey among all EU countries in the last three years in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), also wants to attract investment from Turkish business, Wölfer also stated.
Turks living in Austria and people in Turkey who speak German can play a very important role in boosting bilateral trade relations, which the ambassador noted was balanced. “In my opinion, these people are like the blood of an economic organism,” he commented.
At present, the trade volume between Turkey and Austria is $2 billion, which, the ambassador believes, should be improved. He believes there is much to be done in the area of investments also. Noting that Austria offers a lot of opportunities for Turkish firms in research and development, and for those who wish to enter markets in Eastern Europe, he has called on Turkish businesspeople to invest in Austria.
Keeping an eye on the settlement process
Austria is also keeping a close watch on the developments regarding the settlement process, with an official from the embassy having recently paid a visit, together with others from other European embassies in Ankara, to the mayor of Diyarbakır.
Elaborating on the issue, Wölfer said: “It's not solely from the media that we follow the process. We have observed that people in the [Southeast] region are highly hopeful for a solution.”
But the ambassador has made a point of noting that people are also cautious about a positive result being achieved since previous peace initiatives have failed. “This is a process in which many promises are given. You need to be rather careful and realistic. People are pretty hopeful about the process, and things seem to be going smoothly,” he added, noting that the group of embassy officials who visited Diyarbakır was told that hundreds of cars were now going out of the city for picnics, something which people did not dare do in the past for fear of terrorists.
Austria's negative perception about Turkey is changing
Commenting on Austria's negative perception about Turkey, he noted that this negative perception is changing. “Many Austrians come to Turkey, especially to İstanbul, for business purposes or holidays and this strengthens bilateral relations. Economic relations strengthen and academic conferences improve both the level and quality of relations,” he said.
When asked about the referendum that Austria will hold at the end of the membership negotiation for Turkey's EU membership, he said: “I know some Austrian politicians are skeptical about the referendum. However, these people think that a dynamic perception should be adopted about this issue. I believe that these speculations will not be beneficial for both countries."
The Austrian envoy underlined that both countries need to use all opportunities to improve bilateral relations rather than being distracted by speculation.
Noting that Austria supports the opening of new chapters, Wölfer stated he considers the current situation positive for both sides.Last Mod: 25 Nisan 2013, 15:01