United Nations Secretary-General and Madam Ban Soon-taek arrived in Vienna, Austria, in the morning of Friday, 25 April, from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
The Secretary-General inaugurated that morning, with the Austrian Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Ursula Plassnik, a new environmentally friendly conference facility at the Vienna International Centre with the capacity to service up to 1,500 people.
The Austrian Government and the city of Vienna are covering almost the entire cost, with the United Nations paying just a token amount. “Our small contribution symbolizes something much greater, the Secretary-General said, “the commitment of all Member States to maintain Vienna as a major hub for dealing with international security issues.” (See Press Release SG/SM/11532)
More than 500 Austrian Government officials, Members of Parliament, the Mayor of Vienna, as well as city officials, Permanent Representatives accredited with the United Nations Vienna-based organizations, as well as staff members of the United Nations Office in Vienna, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organization, attended the event. A choir of children of 60 different nationalities sang about their hope for a better future, asking for a chance to grow up in peace.
During a press conference on the site of the new conference building, the Secretary-General addressed the rising food prices. “We must take immediate action in a concerted way,” he said. “In the short term, we must address all humanitarian crises, which have been impacting the poorest of the poor people in the world. In the long term,” he added, “the leaders of the international community should sit down together on an urgent basis and address how we can, first of all, improve the economic systems, distributions systems, as well as how we can promote improved production of agricultural products.” He also announced the meeting of all the heads of agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations, including the Bretton Woods financial institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the following week in Switzerland, to “see what kind of immediate and long-term actions we can take as part of a United Nations-led initiative”.
The Secretary-General later discussed United Nations-European Union cooperation in the Balkans and in Africa with the Foreign Ministers of Slovenia, Dimitrij Rupel; of Slovakia, Ján Kubiš; of the Czech Republic, Karel Schwarzenberg; with Hungarian Secretary of State, Gábor Szentiványi; and with Polish Under-Secretary of State, Witold Waszczykowski. The five ministers from the region had been invited to Vienna by Minister Plassnik to meet the Secretary-General. The issues of Kosovo, Chad, Darfur, the situation in the Middle East, and in Cyprus, as well as United Nations reforms, were also raised during the working luncheon.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with the Federal President of Austria Heinz Fischer at the Hofburg Presidential Palace. The contribution of Austria in peacekeeping operations in Chad, the evolving situation in Kosovo, the Olympic Games, the Annapolis process in the Middle East, the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the summit meeting planned for September on the Millennium Development Goals were raised during the meeting.
The Secretary-General also participated in a panel discussion on the cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union, with Austrian Foreign Minister Plassnik and Slovenian Foreign Minister Rupel in the Old Vienna Stock Exchange Building that evening, urging the European Union to play a leading role on issues of global warming and implementing the Millennium Development Goals. “The European Union,” he said, “should play the role of a locomotive. You should pull from the front and push from the back of this big train” of the international community’s common efforts. He also pledged to continue to galvanize political will and mobilize as many resources as possible to reach the targeted objectives. (See Press Release SG/SM/11534)
On Sunday morning, the Secretary-General had a tête-à-tête meeting with the Director General of IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei, and met later with the heads of all the United Nations agencies based in Vienna.
Secretary-General and Madam Ban Soon-taek left Vienna that Sunday for Bern, Switzerland, where the Secretary-General would chair the meeting of the Chief Executives Board of the United Nations system.