25 Years of Relations Between Arab Countries and Austria

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On last Thursday, 22nd May 2014, the Austro-Arab Chamber of Commerce (AACC) celebrated its 25th Anniversary holding the 7th Arab-Austrian Economic Forum and Exhibition at the Vienna City Hall.

The fruitful economic cooperation could be described as a European-Arab revolution in field of economic relations and was held under the Patronage of H.E. Dr. Heinz Fischer, President of the Republic of Austria and with the support of Dr. Michael Häupl, Mayor and Governor of Vienna and in cooperation with Dr. Christoph Leitl, President of the Austrian Economic Chamber.

The event was also organized with the cooperation of former Lebanese Minister Adnan Kassar, President of the General Union of Arab Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture and Council of Arab Ambassadors to Austria and Council of DSC_9853aArab Ambassadors to Austria.

It was attended by dozens of influential Austrian personalities, the Ambassadors of Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates as well as representatives of Austrian and Arab companies, businessmen, professors, politicians and honour guests.

Among the renowned personalise in attendance were H.E. Dr. Wolfgang Brandstetter, Austrian Minister of Justice, Mag. Renate Brauner, Vice-Mayor and Vice Governor of Vienna who delivered a speech at the opening session; Senator Dr. Richard Schenz, President of AACC; Ambassador Ezzeldin Ramzi, head of the mission of the league of Arab States in Austria; Adnan Kassar, president of the General Union of Arab Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture; Karl Heinz Kopf, ÖVP, deputy speaker of the Austrian National Council; Abdullah Al-Mogbel, Mayor and Governor of the city of Riyadh in Saudia Arabia; Mustafa Osman, Minister for Investments in Sudan; Dr. Nabil Kuzbari, founder and the vice-president of AACC; Dr. Suleiman Al-Herbish, director general of the OPEC Fund and International Development OFID; DI Edith Klauser, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria; Mag. Pierre Prunis, Commercial Counsellor of Austria to Oman and Yemen; Austrian Parliamentarian and DI. Omar Al-Rawi, and many others.  

Behind the scenes, DI Mouddar Khoja, secretary general of the AACC, worked for months in silence and put great professional efforts into assuring the success of this great gathering, the Economic Forum & Exhibition and the 25th Anniversary of the AACC celebration.

Mr. Khoja and his staff were seen since the early morning until late hours after the midnight working in silence yet always smiling. The success of Mr. Khoja and his team was that the AACC Economic Forum & Exhibition offered a unique platform in Austria for exchange of knowledge, networking and deepening of Austro-Arab relations in the fields of economy, trade, culture and diplomacy.

Mag. Brauner congratulated the AACC 25th anniversary and welcomed the distinguished guests, partners, and friends from both the Arab countries and Austria. She said that the 25 years of the AACC were 25 very dynamic years for both Austria and the Arab World. The historic initiative of Bruno Kreisky in 1979 created new opportunities, which positioned Vienna closer to the Arab World than any other Western country at that time. The full text of Mag. Brauner is here.

Senator Dr. Schenz, Mr. Kuzbari and DI Khoja stated that the AACC is celebrating a quarter century of work in Austria since its foundation in 1989 and takes pride in the services between Austria and the Arab World which it has been able to build up and offer.

The AACC provides supporting relations in trade, culture and science between Arab countries and Austria. For the 25 years the AACC acted as a bridge and provider of valuable networking opportunities between Austria and Arab countries.

The AACC operates under the umbrella of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for Arab countries (GUCCAAC) and the league of Arabs States.

They said that 2003 showed extraordinary trade volume figures never seen before in the history of trade between Austria and Arab world, amounting to approximately 6.7 billion US Dollars. The AACC is proud of being an active contributor to this success in cooperation with the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO).

DSC_9375aMr. Al-Mogbel, Mayor of Riyadh, delivered short speech in which he congratulated the AACC for it’s 25th anniversary and expressed his special thanks to the Austria and the ACCC for developing relations with the Arab countries. He wished the attendants of the 7th Forum fruitful results and relations.

Mr. Kassar expressed his admiration to Austria for offering great comparative advantages based on a well developed market economy that features a large sectors of services, industry and agriculture and for being an attractive destination for investments and business for the Arab private sector.

Mr. Al-Herbish said in his brief that OFID is proud to enjoy long standing and deep relations with many Arab partner countries and over years has worked with them to foster their socio-economic development.

He stated that OFID launched its “energy for the poor” initiative in order to address the urgent issue of energy access in developing countries. He said that many Arab countries have been benefiting from the programme.

He congratulated the AACC for its work and ongoing effort towards strengthening relations between Austria and Arab Countries. He said that OFID is privileged to be a partner in this valuable endeavour.

Special Relations Between Austria and Palestinians

DSC_9566aAmbassador Salah Ezz Al-Din Abed El-Shafi, President of the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Vienna and current Palestinian Ambassador to Austria, delivered a speech in English on behalf of Arab Ambassadors at the opening session of the AACC.

He congratulated the AACC for it’s 25 anniversary and expressed the gratitude of the PA to Austria for being the first European country that recognizing Palestine and Palestinian cause and called for an independent Palestinian State.

Ambassador Abed El-Shafi gave an example of the special relations between Austria and Palestinians: He said that Palestinians remember the late Austrian President Kurt Waldheim and the late Austrian politician, Foreign Minister and Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and how they helped Palestinians.

In 1980 Austria established relations with the Palestine Liberation Organisation PLO and in the middle of the eighties Waldheim, who then was the UN Secretary-General, called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

He added that Mr. Waldheim had said that the Palestine Liberation Organization must be brought into Middle East peace negotiations, and the Palestinians must endorse self-determination. Mr. Abed El-Shafi finalized his speech wishing the AACC much success in their work.   

The Fundamentalists Do Not Represent Muslims and Islam

DSC_9984_edited-1The Austro-Arab Chamber of Commerce (AACC) closed it’s 7th Forum on May 22 2014 with gala dinner which features the greetings and speeches of Senator Dr. Schenz, Mag. Brauner, Ambassador Ramzy, former Lebanese Minister Kassar, Dr. Christoph Leitl, Dr. Herbert Stepic, honorary president of the ACC and Mr. Kuzbari.

Austrian and Arab music was performed during the dinner and government awards were conceded to the persons who have left their stamps at the AACC.

Senator Dr. Stepic gave a speech in which he spoke about the most important points that qualify an individual to become president of an economic institution or the AACC.

In his speech, he praised the wisdom of Arab businessmen whom he had the pleasure of meeting in Arab countries.

He said that he has been able to learn lots from them, one of the salient pieces of wisdom being that business relations are always entered into with people whom one likes, as nobody engages in business with people whom they do not like.

He added: “I spent the first 10 years of my career predominantly in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf countries. Besides business and trade we were always aiming at covering culture, social work, know-how transfer and human relations.

He said: “From my view, the development at human relations is still a key function of the organization, particular in times of enormous change processes happening in emerging markets and in particular in the Arab World.

He concluded his speech saying that the extremists and fundamentalists who exist in Arab countries, because of the many current conflicts and political situation, do not represent Islam, Muslims nor the Arab countries.

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