The United States and Austria are pleased to be meeting here today in the historical Belvedere Palace, host to the signing of the Austrian State treaty 65 years ago. Since starting diplomatic relations more than 180 years ago, our countries have shared a long history of vibrant political, economic, and cultural exchange. Our friendship after the Second World War is founded upon common values, including the promotion of human rights, fundamental freedoms, global security, and international prosperity.
We are meeting in challenging times. The current COVID-19 pandemic represents a collective call to action that we can only successfully address through better cooperation as we endeavor to overcome the pandemic’s human toll and the economic contraction caused by public health measures. We share a commitment to the rapid recovery of our economies, including by supporting the efforts of our business communities.
The Western Balkans are a region where Austria and the United States have worked together to promote peace and stability for many years, as is shown, among many other factors, by our joint commitment to peacekeeping in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States and Austria share largely the same vision for the region, a strong basis for productive partnership and regular high-level consultations. We will continue to work together on promoting the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, and advancing the integration of these states into the Transatlantic community, with full EU membership as a goal for all of the Western Balkans region.
As in any friendship, people-to-people contacts are the lifeblood of Austro-American relations. Hundreds of thousands of artists, businesspeople and entrepreneurs, students and teachers, tourists, sports and entertainment figures have made our exchanges more dynamic, diverse, and deeper. Mutual understanding and benefits have only increased as a consequence.
The wide array of organizations and individuals active on both sides of the Atlantic are an essential element of our bilateral relationship. But their invaluable contributions need to become more visible to the general public. To promote our Strategic Partnership’s myriad human connections, we have agreed to launch a bilateral dialogue between our civil societies. This additional dialogue will intensify channels of encounter, exchange, and cooperation and will complement and reinforce official government channels of communication. And in the hope that the travel situation would allow it, we intend to organize an inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Austria Civil Society Dialogue in early 2021.