President's visit shows close ties between Vietnam, Austria: GÖV leader
|Assoc. Prof. Dr. Alfred Gerstl, President of the Austria-Vietnam Society (GÖV). (Photo: VNA)
He noted that in April, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg visited Vietnam following the Austrian visit last year by his Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic relations.
Austrian business delegations have also made regular visits to Vietnam, showing the significance of economic ties between the two countries, he held.
Along with economy, Austria and the EU have paid great attention to peace and stability in Southeast Asia, he added.
According to Gerstl, for the EU and Austria, the Indo-Pacific region, especially Southeast Asia, is becoming increasingly economically and strategically important. Due to Vietnam's key role in Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), European countries are increasingly eager to strengthen ties with Vietnam.
In this effort, Austria has a great advantage because it was one of the first European countries to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1972, he said, adding Vietnam's "Doi Moi" (Renewal) policy with the opening of its economy has created a new impetus for this relationship.
He reviewed a number of milestones in the relations between Vietnam and Austria, underlining that today, the bilateral economic partnership is thriving. In recent years, Vietnam has become the most important trade partner of Austria in Southeast Asia.
Austria mainly imports electronics, especially mobile phones, as well as shoes and garments, along with food, metal products and furniture from Vietnam; while exporting machinery, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals and medical instruments. Vietnam is also becoming more and more attractive to investors and manufacturers from Austria and the EU, as the country is well integrated into regional and global production and supply chains. Vietnam can become an important centre of the region, if its infrastructure is further improved, he asserted.
He noted that Austria currently has nearly 60 companies with branches in Vietnam, with a total investment of about 500 million EUR (556.42 million USD). Austria has a high level of expertise in areas where Vietnam needs, such as renewable energy, water treatment and waste recycling. Therefore, the two sides have great potential to further deepen the bilateral relationship, he said.
In order to further promote the bilateral ties, Dr. Gerstl proposed that along with maintaining regular high-level visits, the two sides should strengthen dialogues among businesses.
It is necessary to increase exchanges among scientists and students between the two countries, he said, noting that the programme to send Vietnamese nurses and caregivers to Austria to work and study has been effective.
He also pointed to the need to promote cooperation among localities of the two sides. With its experts and network, the GÖV can work with the Vietnam-Austria Friendship Association to support the stronger connections between the two sides, he added.
Regarding contributions of the Austria-Vietnam Society to bilateral relations, Dr. Gerstl said that since its establishment in 1975, the GÖV has worked to provide Austrian people with information about Vietnam and support people in Vietnam.
After the war ended in Vietnam and the country was reunified, the GÖV's top priority was to help rebuild Vietnam. In the late 1990s, it sponsored a nursing school for orphans in Ho Chi Minh City, while providing financial support to build schools and kindergartens in Ben Tre province.
According to Dr. Gerstl, the GÖV is interested in Vietnam's economic and political development, as well as Vietnam's foreign policy and its growing strategic importance in the Indo-Pacific region. The GÖV President said that Vietnam, with a population nearly 10 times higher than that of Austria, shares many similarities with Austria in behavior with big countries, especially neighbouring ones. Both countries are trying to maintain friendly relations with all major powers as well as with smaller states and to avoid one-sided dependence.
He said that Vietnamese Ambassador to Austria Nguyen Trung Kien, and former Austrian Foreign Minister Peter Jankowitsch who also served as the GÖV President for 20 years, made great contributions to deepening the mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples.
He revealed that the GÖV is working to expand cultural activities between the two countries, while supporting cultural events of Vietnamese people in Austria, promoting Austrian culture and art in Vietnam, thus encouraging people of both sides to make greater contributions to strengthening mutual understanding and friendship between the two nations.