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Foreign Minister Schallenberg receives new Italian Foreign Minister Tajani

AUSTRIA, December 6 - On 7 December 2022, Foreign Minister Schallenberg received his new Italian counterpart Antonio Tajani for a bilateral meeting in Vienna. In addition to an exchange on the excellent bilateral relations, the talks focused on joint action in response to the Russian war of aggression, European integration in the Western Balkans and the fight against illegal migration.

The excellent relationship between Austria and Italy is already reflected in the fact that the first bilateral visit abroad since taking office brought the Italian Foreign Minister to Vienna. Foreign Minister Schallenberg welcomed this and spoke of the inestimable value of having a true European like Antonio Tajani at the helm of the foreign policy of an important European partner like Italy. In addition to close coordination at the European level, both Foreign Ministers underlined the further development of South Tyrol's autonomy as a special area of cooperation.

The solution of the ethnic group issue in South Tyrol, with the guarantee of the rights of the German-speaking minorities, is a European showcase for peaceful coexistence in Europe and worldwide, which could be a model for the Western Balkan states, for example,

emphasised Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

Furthermore, the Austrian Foreign Minister welcomed the clear stance of the new Italian government in support of Ukraine and the strong condemnation of the Russian aggressor. For especially in the coming months, said Foreign Minister Schallenberg, unity and strategic patience at the European level would be indispensable. Only in this way, as a strong EU-27, could the battle of narratives against Russian disinformation be won in other regions of the world as well.

The two foreign ministers also agreed that with the Western Balkans in close geographical proximity, both Austria and Italy's economic and political stability in the region was in the interest of both states. Foreign Minister Schallenberg – along with his Italian counterpart – emphasised the necessity of granting Bosnia and Herzegovina EU candidate status. As a sign of solidarity with the Western Balkan state, the two Foreign Ministers announced a joint trip to Sarajevo after their meeting.

In light of the massive influx of migrants via the Balkan and Mediterranean routes, the two foreign ministers also spoke out in favour of European solutions and close bilateral coordination with regard to illegal migration. Foreign Minister Schallenberg assured his counterpart that Austria understood Italy's difficult situation due to its exposed geographical location. He pointed out that Austria recently had the highest number of asylum applications per capita in the EU.

The current situation is unbearable for the Austrian and Italian people, especially at an already challenging time,

said Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

Finally, discussions also touched upon Alpine transit traffic between Austria and Italy via the Brenner Pass. Here too, Foreign Minister Schallenberg hopes for concrete results from the talks between the European Commission, Germany, Italy and Austria in the near future. In order to be able to shift freight traffic to the railways, the Brenner Tunnel must be swiftly quickly, and sufficient capacities for rail expansion in Italy and Germany must be created.