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US-Austria Relations

Austria is a free and stable democracy with a social market economy. As the inheritor of the Habsburg monarchy's historic links to eastern and southeastern Europe, Austria sees a role for itself in helping countries in these regions integrate successfully into an enlarged European Union. The United States and Austria share many common values and common perspectives, including a commitment to reducing the threats posed by climate change and nuclear proliferation, a support for human rights and the rule of law, and a shared vision of peace and freedom for all. The two countries are bound together through myriad people-to-people contacts in business, the arts, scholarship, recreation, and a host of other exchanges.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire recognized the United States in 1797, when we established consular relations with a Consul in Trieste, then part of the Austrian empire. Diplomatic relations were established with the naming of Henry A. Muhlenberg as first American Minister to Vienna in 1838. Relations were generally good until World War I (1914-18) and the United States’ declaration of war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1917.

Austria-Hungary severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 8, 1917, after the United States declared war on Germany. The United States did not declare war on Austria-Hungary until December 7, 1917. Austria-Hungary concluded an armistice with the Allied powers on November 3, 1918; several of its minorities (the Czechoslovaks, Yugoslavs, and Hungarians) had already declared their independence. Emperor Charles I abdicated on November 12, 1918, and an Austrian Republic was proclaimed on November 13, 1918. Since the post-World War II period, the United States and Austria have enjoyed strong relations.

The tenth of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points called for free opportunities for the “autonomous development” of the peoples of Austria-Hungary. The United States did not ratify the Treaty of St-Germain (September 10, 1919) which recognized the independence of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Poland and formally dissolved the Dual Monarchy. Congress passed a Joint Resolution ending the state of war with Austria-Hungary on July 2, 1921, opening the way for the establishment of relations with the Austrian Republic. The United States recognized the Republic of Austria on August 24, 1921, with the signing of a Treaty Establishing Friendly Relations in Vienna.

Friendly diplomatic relations with the new Republic of Austria were established in 1921 and lasted until Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938. After the Anschluss of 1938 incorporated Austria into Nazi Germany, the U.S. Legation in Vienna was closed and became a Consulate General. The Vienna Consulate General was closed July 9, 1941, along with all other U.S. consulates in Germany.

On November 1, 1943, at the end of the Moscow Conference, the Foreign Ministers of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed that Austria’s annexation by Germany was “null and void,” and that they favored the re-establishment of “a free and independent Austria.” A provisional government was established in Austria on April 25, 1945, and a Democratic Republic of Austria was proclaimed on May 14. On August 8, 1945, Austria and Vienna were divided into four occupation zones, with an Allied Council for Austria assuming authority over matters affecting the whole country. On January 7, 1946, the Four Powers recognized the Austrian Republic within its 1937 boundaries.

After World War II (1939-45), the four allied powers (the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) divided Austria and Vienna into four occupation zones, with an Allied Council for Austria assuming authority over matters affecting the whole country.

In 1955, these four powers and the Republic of Austria signed the Austrian State Treaty, which ended the occupation and declared Austria to be a free, independent, and neutral state. The U.S. played an essential role in the country's reconstruction and in the Austrian State Treaty. Since the post-World War II period, the United States and Austria have enjoyed strong relations.

Austria and the United States are partners in promoting global security and prosperity. During the immediate postwar period, Austrian authorities introduced certain restitution and compensation measures for Nazi victims, but many of these initial measures were later seen as inadequate and/or unjust. Since 1994, Austria has committed to providing victims and heirs some $1 billion in restitution.

The United States provides no foreign assistance to Austria.

Austria's political leaders and people recognize and appreciate the essential role the U.S. played in the country's reconstruction and in the Austrian State Treaty. It is in the interest of the U.S. to maintain and strengthen these relations and to maintain Austria's political and economic stability.

Although the scope for U.S.-Austrian partnership is limited, in many areas the relationship has been very positive. Perhaps foremost among the success stories was the complementary approaches to the western Balkans, where Austria was engaged economically, culturally, politically, and militarily in ways that directly assisted achieving U.S. goals. Likewise, both strongly supported the development of a southern corridor to bring energy supplies to Europe from the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Middle East, with Austria prioritizing the Austrian-led Nabucco gas pipeline project. In other areas, we have mixed results. Austria warmly welcomed President Obama's arms control proposals, but had a strong anti-nuclear stance which puts it at odds with the U.S. on development of nuclear energy.

Environmental policy cooperation holds great promise, but Austria continued to push for a binding agreement among developed nations even if major emerging economies refuse to accept binding limitations on their greenhouse gas emissions. In other areas, Austria has been passive and at times actively unhelpful. It rejected, for example, any civilian or military deployments to Afghanistan (beyond the two officers now deployed to ISAF) and actively fought to block European Commission actions that would increase access to Europe for U.S. agricultural products, esp. GMOs. FonMin Spindelegger proposed a Black Sea initiative that could complement, perhaps significantly, U.S. policy in that region.




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Page last modified: 29-09-2012 18:37:58 ZULU