Topnews, Südafrika

11. Oktober 2021


Dear Friends

On the 26th of October, Austria will be celebrating its National Day, which commemorates Austria signing of the Declaration of Perpetual Neutrality, following its occupation by the four Allied Forces, United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union after the Second World War. In honour of Austria’s National Day, this month’s message is dedicated to the friendship between South Africa and Austria.  

South Africa and Austria share warm bilateral relations with both countries hosting an embassy in Vienna and Pretoria respectively. Bilateral Consultations are conducted through a Joint Bilateral Mechanism, which holds discussions on various areas of cooperation ranging from political, economic and social.

On the bilateral front, South Africa and Austria signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Science and Technology in 2015, wherein we undertook to cooperate for mutual benefit in light of the rapid growth of scientific and technological knowledge. Currently, South Africa and Austria collaborate within Horizon 2020 (EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation) and the European research initiative EUREKA, which focuses on transnational cooperation in business-driven applied research. There is also strong university cooperation between several Austrian and South African universities to promote research and scientific excellence.

As Vienna is the centre of cultural excellence, both countries have acknowledged the importance of arts and culture as an avenue to strengthen relations and are looking forward to negotiating an MoU on Arts and Culture. South African culture is widely appreciated in Austria through exchanges and performance in opera and popular music. Mimi Coertse, Johan Botha and Pretty Yende are well known opera singers in Vienna. In 1996, the Austrian government awarded Mimi Coertse the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art honor, which is the highest award an artist can receive in Austria while Pretty Yende is also another renowned South African artist taking the Viennese opera scene by storm.  

On the economic front, South Africa and Austria share strong bilateral trade. In the period from January – June 2021, bilateral trade between South Africa and Austria amounted to Euro 676.5 million which is an increase of 49.8 % to the same period in 2020. South African exports amounted to Euro 377.7 million an increase of 57.7 % and Austrian exports amounted to Euro 298.8 million, an increase of 40.8% compared to same period in 2020. Iron ore still remains the biggest SA export product to Austria with the trade basket also containing pulp, automotive, nuts and dried fruits. There are currently 81 Austrian companies present in South Africa, of which 17 have direct investments. South African companies active in Austria include Mondi, Sappi and Dimension Data. We look forward to more robust trade between both countries for mutual benefit and prosperity.

South African wine is also popular in Austria and can be found in local stores and Wein & Co. Most recently, I had the pleasure of hosting Mr Anthony Russel Hamilton from the Russel Hamilton wine estate at the embassy He was in town to expand his wine offerings to the Austrian and broader European market. We wish him well on placing South African wine as a yet another firm favourite on the menu.

On the multilateral front, the South African embassy is accredited to the United Nations and International Organisations in Austria. Austria is the host of one of four United Nations (UN) headquarters. The Vienna International Centre (VIC), which was built by the Austrian Government in 1979, houses the six international organisations based in Vienna namely: the United Nations Secretariat with its Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); the Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the Office for Outer Space Affaires (UNOOSA); the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO Prep-Com) and the Mission is active in all these organisations.

South Africa and Austria have found common areas of cooperation within the multilateral sphere. At the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, President van der Bellen echoed South Africa’s sentiments about vaccine inequality and the urgent need to provide vaccines to developing countries. While we would prefer stronger support for our joint proposal for a temporary waiver on certain provisions of TRIPS Agreement to combat COVID-19 tabled at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), we appreciate the Austrian government’s vocal support for vaccine access in the developing world. Austria is a unique country, which finds itself at the crossroads of East and West Europe and acts as a bridge between developed and developing countries. Herein, lies both a great opportunity and responsibility to forge closer collaboration on important global issues. The pandemic has made the world borderless and a threat to one is a threat to all.

Looking ahead

We look forward to forging stronger relations with Austria and greatly anticipate the proposed State Visit by President van der Bellen to South Africa in 2022. As Austria celebrates its National Day, we are mindful of the events that culminated in its commemoration and wish all Austrians a Happy National Day!

Kind regards

RS Molekane

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