ISLAMABAD - ISLAMABAD - On October 26, the Austrian nation commemorates the anniversary of the Declaration of Neutrality.

Austria was occupied by the winning allied forces after World War II. In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty was signed and Austria gained its independence. The Austrian Ambassador Dr Brigitta Blaha hosted a reception to mark the national day of the country at her residence.

The celebration event was attended by European ambassadors, politicians, civil society members and the representatives of business community.

National anthem of European Union, Pakistan and Austria were played by the Austrian Musicians Paul Schuberth and Christopher Haritzer who especially came to perform in this event.

The Federal Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain graced the occasion as the chief guest.

The Ambassador of Iran Mehdi Honardoost informed about his meeting with the ICCI President Sheikh Amir Waheed for the promotion of trade between the two countries.

Responding to a question about banking system for trade between both countries, he replied that almost 90 percent of the work in this regard has been done and the remaining would be done hopefully in next few days.

Dr Brigitta Blaha was appointed as an ambassador to Pakistan in 2014. Throughout her tenure, she has promoted the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Austria with her full devotion and commitment.

A few months ago, the Ambassador of France Martian Dorance and German Ambassador Ina Lepal left Islamabad for new assignments and now Brigitta Blaha is seen attending diplomatic receptions alone where they all used to be together. Dr Brigitta Blaha delivered a very thought-provoking speech on this occasion to strengthen the bond of friendship between the two countries. While highlighting the importance of the country’s national day, she said, “Around 100 years ago, we were part of a larger entity, the Habsburg Empire and later the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Now we have united again as the European Union.”

She added that Austria is very much part of international community and joined United Nations in December 1955 and its capital Vienna became a regional headquarters of the UN in 1980.

Vienna is also home to other international institution and organisations and has become a centre for international dialogue; it also emerged as a hub for the promotion of peace, security, sustainable development, disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, she added.

She further said that Austria is the chair of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world largest security organisation, committed to improving security, rule of law and human rights in the 57 participating State in North America, Europe and Asia.

She also mentioned that in January 1955, Austria joined the European Union and has since been its active member.

In the second half of next year, Austria will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union Council and is already preparing for this important task. Austria is strongly committed to the European idea, which is the most successful peace project in the history.

Focusing on bilateral ties between both countries, she said that since 1956 Pakistan and Austria are enjoying friendly relations. The bilateral trade has steadily diversified and its volume has increased in recent years, which is now around Euro 260 million.

She further added that Austrian companies are active in Pakistan in the fields of hydro-power, oil and gas production and the projects in the area of urban transport and development of tourism facilities are underway.

She added that Agriculture and renewable energy source are other sectors with potential growth. She presented an award to Masood ul Mulk, the CEO of SRSP, for winning the national award for the Sarhad Rural Supports Programme for its project on Renewable and sustainable energy in the remote areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

On this occasion, Rana Tanveer Hussain said that Austria and Pakistan enjoy cordial relations. He said that relations between the two countries have been very warm and getting stronger with each passing moment.

He desired to further strengthen the brotherly ties in the fields of bilateral trade, investment, energy, sports and institution building. He further said that there is a room for future cooperation and collaboration between the two countries. Therefore, the Government of Pakistan is focusing on creating sustained economic growth for which the support of friends like Austria is appreciable.

He congratulated all and the people of Austria on behalf of the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Austria is a mountainous country with one of the largest natural land reserves in central Europe and is an attractive tourism destination. A land of 8.5 million with a strong economy and high living standards is listed among the most peaceful countries in the world. Not only that its musical heritage is incomparable all over the world. Austrian Embassy has organised many cultural events in the main cities of Pakistan.

Two Austrian musicians, Christopher Haritzer, and Paul Schuberth are very popular not only in Austria but also in Pakistan. Christopher Haritzer is well-known for his traditional Austrian folk and woodwind music and he wonderfully plays the clarinet. Paul Schuberth is one of the best-known accordion players. He has recorded 12 CDs and is co-leader of various musical groups.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.