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H.E. Christian Ebner, Austrian Ambassador To Serbia

Serving In The Balkans Is A Dream Job

I am convinced that Serbia will be a member of the European Union, which is our common goal. To realise this goal, we – both the EU and Serbia – need to show our full commitment ~ Christian Ebner

Noting that Serbia is at the centre of Austrian foreign policy, as one of its most important Balkan partners, Vienna’s new ambassador to Serbia says that coming to Belgrade is “a dream come true for any Austrian diplomat”. Ambassador Ebner says that his aim is to strengthen economic cooperation between the two countries, and to do so in new fields like transport networks, logistics, energy transition etc. CorD’s interlocutor is convinced that Serbia’s future is in the EU, because – in terms of citizens’ connectedness with the EU and economic cooperation – “Serbia has already been a member of our European political community for a long time”.

Your excellency, what will be the key objectives of your term as ambassador to Serbia?

As Austrian ambassador, I will work to further deepen our bilateral friendship, improving our already excellent business and commercial relations and wholeheartedly supporting Serbia’s path towards the EU.

You arrived in Serbia from Madrid. However, given that you were an adviser to Sebastian Kurz, who developed close relations with the Serbian government – initially in his role as foreign minister and subsequently as chancellor, it could be said that you are very well acquainted with the situation in Serbia.

It is true that Serbia is one of the most important partners of Austria in the region and is situated at the very heart of our foreign policy. So, every Austrian diplomat will always follow its development, challenges and successes very closely.

As Austrian ambassador, I will work to further deepen our bilateral friendship, improving our already excellent business and commercial relations and wholeheartedly supporting Serbia’s path towards the EU

I very much remember how we were celebrating 21st January 2014, the first meeting of the Accession Conference with Serbia at the ministerial level, opening the accession negotiations.

You noted when submitting your diplomatic credentials to the President of Serbia that you will work to improve economic cooperation between our two countries. In which areas do you see the greatest potential for advancement?

The need for modernisation of the infrastructure sector, i.e., transport networks, logistics, energy transition and industrial construction, offers new opportunities for Austrian companies.

Austria is among Serbia´s most important economic partners. Do you think that the economic difficulties resulting from the war in Ukraine could have an impact at the level of cooperation between our two countries?

We all have to adapt to the new economic challenges we are facing due to two recent crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

Border closures, disrupted supply chains and energy shortages create challenges, but also offer new possibilities if we are creative and open to new partnerships.

The recent trilateral summit of Austria, Hungary and Serbia included discussions of joint efforts to combat crime and human trafficking. Dramatic warnings are emerging from the Austrian side with regard to the growing number of asylum seekers in the country. What specifically is expected from Serbia in that context?

The situation is really dramatic and we need to address this challenge together. Austria appreciates Serbia’s cooperation in combatting human trafficking along its borders, but also by aligning its visa regime to EU standards. We will increase our police cooperation with Serbia and our support for a modern border management. We need to act jointly to be successful.

You emphasise Austria’s unwavering support for Serbia’s EU integration, while many people here are disappointed over the slowness of the accession process. What do you consider more realistic: that Serbia will become a member of the EU; or that it will be a partner in the “European political community”, which is the new proposal?

I am convinced that Serbia will be a member of the European Union, which is our common goal. In order to achieve this goal, we need to show our full commitment, as both the EU and Serbia. I see how important the economic outreach of the EU in Serbia is and how intense people-to-people contacts have grown.

Austria appreciates Serbia’s cooperation in combatting human trafficking along its borders, but also by aligning its visa regime to EU standards. We will increase our police cooperation with Serbia and our support for a modern border management

So, in that sense Serbia, has already been a member of our European political community for a long time.

Do you consider it essential for Serbia to impose sanctions against Russia if it wants to remain on the road to EU accession?

I consider it essential for Serbia to leave absolutely no doubt about its full rejection of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which is causing human suffering and destruction.

This is contrary to our values and convictions and what the EU stands for. Therefore, sanctions. I cannot imagine Serbia not sharing these values.

Some analytical reports on the Western Balkans include the thesis that this region of Europe could become the next crisis hotspot, as a kind of extension of the existing conflicts between the West and Russia. Do you believe such a danger exists?

We have to be careful and will work together to ensure this danger doesn’t materialise.

Media reports suggest that you were initially scheduled to become Austria’s ambassador to Germany, only for it to be subsequently decided that you would come to Belgrade. Will serving in the Balkans prove to be an easier or tougher job for a diplomat?

Serving in the Balkans, especially as ambassador in Belgrade, is a dream come true for any Austrian diplomat. My family and I feel very welcome here, although the most difficult decision we as a family have to make is still outstanding: should we go for Red Star or Partizan.

EU

I am convinced that Serbia will be a member of the European Union, which is our common goal

SANCTIONS

I consider it essential for Serbia to leave absolutely no doubt about its full rejection of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which is causing human suffering and destruction

CONFLICT CONTAINMENT

We have to be careful and will work together to ensure the danger of the conflict spreading doesn’t materialise

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