(22.10.18 – 24.10.18) This plenary session we organised in the framework of the “Days of Austria” two events that gathered more than 200 people in our Association. Our members and the public had the opportunity to get to know more about the history, the culture and the current political priorities of Austria.
The Days of Austria started with an opening ceremony on Monday 22 October. Our guests had the pleasure to enjoy the diversity of the cultural heritage of the country by visiting an exhibition dedicated to the life of Bertha von Suttner – an Austrian pacifist who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for peace in 1905 – and by watching a dance performance by the Austrian artist Doris-Buche Reisinger. Finally, the participants had the opportunity to discover Austrian food specialties during a reception in our cellar.
On Wednesday 24 October, the focus was set on the political dimension of the Austrian presidency. We organised a debate on the topic “The Western Balkans during Austria’s EU-Presidency”. We had the honour to welcome two prestigious guest speakers, namely, Dhurata Hoxha, Kosovo’s Minister for EU affairs and the Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl, member of the Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. The main questions of the debate were the following:
What initiatives will the Austrian presidency put in place to bring the Western Balkans closer the the EU? What are the challenges Kosovo is facing in regard of the EU-accession process? How could the Western Balkans give new energy to the European project?
Minister Hoxha shared her hopes and also her concerns about the future of her very young, but dynamic country. She described the efforts which were made in order to come closer to the EU and she stressed the importance of a rapid accession process.
MEP Mandl gave us some insights about the long collaboration between Kosovo and Austria through the Austria-Kosovo Friendship Association and he stressed that the Western Balkans are a high priority of the Austrian presidency. Also visa liberalization for Kosovo’s citizens was discussed.
In the second part of the evening, the public had the opportunity to ask several questions to our speakers, in regard to the economic and human-rights situation in Kosovo, the relationship with Serbia and the possible impacts of EU-enlargement on the decision-making process of the EU.