Annual Report 2007-2008
 

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OUTPUT 1.1: Protection and advocacy of Australia's international interests through the provision of policy advice to ministers and overseas diplomatic activity

1.1.4 Europe

On this page: Overview :: European Union :: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) :: Europe—bilateral relationships :: Outlook

Overview

In 2007–08 the department contributed to strengthening and deepening Australia’s extensive links with European countries. We worked to provide momentum to promote a new era in creative, broad-based cooperation with the European Union (EU) announced by the Prime Minister Mr Rudd and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in Brussels in April 2008. A Passenger Name Record Agreement has been concluded. A new Partnership Framework Agreement is being finalised that will set cooperation priorities for Australia’s bilateral relationship with the EU, and a comprehensive air services agreement is being negotiated with the EU.

The department supported a number of high-level visits in both directions that contributed to the consolidation and expansion of our regular dialogue with European countries in support of Australian foreign policy and trade objectives, including counter-terrorism cooperation, disarmament issues, agricultural reform and shared interests to help secure and rebuild Afghanistan. We provided continued support to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to achieve the repatriation of Australian Indigenous remains from a number of European institutions, resulting in the return of identified remains from Sweden and the United Kingdom, and significant progress in relation to several other countries.

European Union

Photo - See caption below for description
The Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, and the European Commission President, Mr Jos√© Manuel Barroso, at their joint press conference on 2 April 2008 in†Brussels.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department took forward the Government’s policy of enhanced cooperation with the European Union (EU). The Prime Minister’s visit to Brussels on 2 April 2008 resulted in a Joint Statement with European Commission President Barroso that outlined initiatives to strengthen and develop the bilateral relationship on a range of issues, including cooperation on international trade, climate change, the Pacific region and international security threats. The principal vehicle for taking forward this reinvigorated partnership will be a new Partnership Framework Agreement, planned to be adopted at Australia–European Union Presidency Consultations in October 2008.

The department advanced a number of key bilateral treaties. Of particular note was the finalisation of the text of an Australia–European Union Passenger Name Record Agreement, a key border security priority for Australia. The Agreement was signed on 30 June 2008. We worked to secure an EU mandate to negotiate a comprehensive air services agreement with Australia during 2008–09. In close collaboration with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the department responded to issues raised by EU Member States regarding visa reciprocity ahead of the 2008 launch of the Government’s new visa platform, eVisitors. We advanced negotiations with the EU on a bilateral treaty on mutual recognition of conformity assessment in key manufacturing sectors.

The department prepared the Australian Government Submission to the European Commission’s Budget Review. The submission demonstrated the Government’s commitment to enhanced cooperation with the EU and signalled a willingness on Australia’s part to work with the EU to develop appropriate responses to the common challenges of globalisation, climate change, energy security and shifting patterns of international trade and investment. The submission highlighted the breadth of the Australia–European Union relationship and the benefits of engaging in dialogue to share experiences in addressing these challenges with appropriate public policy responses.

The department continued to advocate the need for further reform of the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and industry, the department facilitated agricultural policy forums in Paris, Brussels, Berlin and Warsaw to promote agricultural reform in Europe by sharing the Australian reform experience. In Brussels, the agricultural policy forum included discussion with the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mariann Fischer Boel.

In cooperation with industry, the department undertook a sustained advocacy and outreach campaign with the aim of ensuring that the EU’s approach to industry regulation, notably its Dangerous Substances Directives system and the new Registration Evaluation Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation, was undertaken with appropriate scientific rigour and transparency. We also sought to ensure that affected stakeholders outside the EU had the opportunity to comment on the development of new regulatory regimes and were afforded timely information. Opportunities to pursue this dialogue should be enhanced under the new Australia–European Union Partnership Framework.

Partnership Framework: European Union

During a visit to Brussels in April this year, the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, and European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, agreed to develop a new Partnership Framework for adoption in 2008 as the key mechanism to define the future direction of the bilateral relationship.

The Framework will provide a forward-looking, flexible and coherent policy underpinning to the bilateral relationship. It will replace the 1997 Joint Declaration and the 2003–2008 Agenda for Cooperation. It will provide the context within which we will pursue practical engagement in five broad areas of interest: cooperation in international security; trade and development issues; the Asia-Pacific region; climate change; and energy, science and education.

The department, supported by DAFF, hosted a visit by French Member of the European Parliament, Mr Stéphane Le Foll, in October 2007. Mr Le Foll is also a member of the European Parliament Commissions on Agriculture, on the Environment, and on Public Health and Food Safety. The visit helped develop a clearer understanding by a senior EU policy officials of Australia’s agriculture, our history of reform and our trade policies. The department assisted a visit of ten international journalists, including three Europeans, interested in agricultural and resource issues. Again we were able to provide key impressions of Australia’s agricultural reform and brief the journalists on the benefits of trade liberalisation.

 

FIGURE 11. Australia’s trade in goods and services WITH the European Union(a)

FIGURE 11. Australia’s trade in goods and services WITH the European Union

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Source: DFAT STARS database and ABS Catalogue 5368.0.

Consistent with the department’s commitment to strengthen Australian business engagement with Europe, we supported the European Australian Business Council (EABC) in developing an extensive program of meetings in key EU countries for the Council’s annual high-level business mission to Europe from 25 May 2008 to 4 June 2008. The EABC Business Mission visited Vienna, Budapest, Madrid, Paris and Brussels, with meetings in Vienna and Budapest focusing on potential business opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe. We worked closely with DAFF to achieve the finalisation of the text of the revised Australia–European Commission Wine Agreement which should be ready for signature in late 2008. The revised agreement will provide benefits for both Australian and European wine producers, including through recognition by the EU of Australian wine-making practices and by simplifying labelling provisions.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

The department played a key role in strengthening Australia’s engagement with NATO on international efforts to stabilise Afghanistan, including high-level participation in operational planning for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, and work to develop the comprehensive political–military strategy that was adopted by leaders at the ISAF meeting during the Bucharest NATO Summit in April 2008 (which was attended by the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd). The department also reinforced cooperation with NATO through Australia’s practical and flexible relationship as a NATO ‘Contact Country’ and facilitated the participation of the Department of Defence in tailored Partnership for Peace (PfP) cooperative training activities, NATO forums, NATO working groups, personnel exchanges and senior level visits. The Australia–NATO Agreement on the Security of Information was signed in September 2007 and is expected to enter into force on completion by both parties of their domestic legal processes.

Europe—bilateral relationships

The already close, broad-based relationship with the United Kingdom was reinforced by the visit of the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, to the United Kingdom in April 2008. The department provided significant support for this visit, which resulted in an agreement by Mr Rudd and the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, to strengthen cooperation in international areas including development, climate change, trade and investment and the reform of international institutions. The links with the United Kingdom were further strengthened with Mr Smith’s first visit as Foreign Minister in June 2008.

The department assisted with visits to the United Kingdom by the Governor-General and a number of federal ministers including the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett. We supported visits to Australia by UK ministers, including the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Meg Munn, and the UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Lord Jones. These, and a large number of other high-level visits, reflected the depth and breadth of our engagement with the United Kingdom.

The department supported Austrade activities to promote Australian capabilities in infrastructure, green technologies, financial services and security technologies through effective advocacy, harnessing expatriate business networks and maximising opportunities arising from preparations for the London 2012 Olympic Games. We supported the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s London Skills Expo which attracted 40 Australian exhibitors and more than 3000 potential migrants.

Photo - See caption below for description
Part of the Australian and European Union (EU) negotiating teams, at the conclusion of negotiations on the text of the Australia-EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Agreement, at the Justus Lipsius Building, EU Council Headquarters in Brussels on 16 May 2008. L–R: Jan Dorrington, Australian Customs Service; James Potter, Attorney-General’s Department; Paul Wojciechowski, Australian Embassy, Brussels; John Griffin, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Joan Sheedy, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Blaz Visnar, Chief Negotiator, EU Slovenian Presidency; Cecilia Verkleij, European Commission; Guy Stessens, EU Council Secretariat.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department helped strengthen Australia’s relations with France in 2007–08, facilitating an increased number of high-level contacts between the two countries. Mr Rudd held a bilateral meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the margins of the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April 2008 and the Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, met his French counterpart, Herve Morin, in the margins of the Shangri La Dialogue held in Singapore in May 2008.

In June 2008, the department organised bilateral meetings between Mr Smith and French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, at the International Afghanistan Support Conference in Paris and in the margins of the G8 Conference in Kyoto; Mr Crean and French Minister for Agriculture, Michel Barnier; and Treasurer Mr Swan and French Minister for the Economy, Industry and Employment, Christine Lagarde, in Osaka, Japan.

Since the signing of a Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2006, the department has worked actively to develop closer engagement with France on defence and security issues, including in the Pacific. In October 2007 we supported a visit to Australia by French Minister for Overseas Territories, Christian Estrosi, and in March 2008 bi-annual political-military consultations were held in Canberra.

The legacy of Australia’s involvement in France and Belgium in the First and Second World Wars plays an important role in our bilateral relations with those countries. In 2008, the 90th anniversary of the battle of Villers-Bretonneux in France with a special Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux was televised live to Australia and attended by 4000 people. In conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the department played a key role in organising this special event, and an associated visit by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Mr Alan Griffin, who also visited World War I battlefields in Belgium.

The department contributed to the development of Australia’s relationship with Germany, which in 2007–08 was characterised by continued growth in investment flows between the two countries and increasing focus by Germany on strategic developments in the Asia-Pacific area. This and our respective commitments in Afghanistan and Australia’s renewed support for multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation efforts enhanced bilateral dialogue and cooperation.

The department supported a meeting between Mr Smith and his German counterpart Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Kyoto, Japan, in June 2008. We also supported a visit to Germany in April 2008 by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, and a visit to Australia, in February 2008, by the German State Secretary for Agriculture, Food and Consumer Protection, Gert Lindemann.

The department sustained its engagement with Germany on key strategic interests, holding annual senior officials-level talks with Germany which focused on international arms control, security, counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation issues. We oversaw implementation and the first review of the 2007 bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Development Aid that provides for Australian and German support for the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation.

The department strengthened Australia’s relations with the Netherlands. In particular, our partnership with the Dutch in a Provincial Reconstruction Team in southern Afghanistan’s Oruzgan Province, under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, Stage III, has added depth to our bilateral relationship. We engaged closely with Dutch decision makers ahead of the decision by the Netherlands to extend its Oruzgan mission by two years until 2010.

Afghanistan was a key area of discussion during the visit to Australia by the Netherlands Minister for Defence, Eimert van Middelkoop, in March 2008. The Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, met Netherlands’ Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende while attending the ISAF meeting of the NATO Summit in Bucharest in early April 2008.

The department supported a visit to Ireland in March 2008 by the Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, and a visit to Australia, also in March 2008, by Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey. We cooperated with Austrade to promote project management services and Australian fashion and cosmetics exports to Ireland.

The department strengthened customs cooperation with Austria with the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding on Customs Cooperation in March 2008. In November 2007, the department, in conjunction with the Australia Council, supported a solo exhibition by Australian sculptor and painter, Ricky Swallow, at the Kunsthalle project space, an important contemporary art gallery in Vienna. In collaboration with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, we worked closely with Swiss authorities to finalise an air services agreement between Australia and Switzerland.

In conjunction with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the New South Wales government and other federal and state agencies, the department provided significant support to the Holy See and Catholic Church organisations ahead of World Youth Day 2008 and the first visit to Australia by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in July 2008. In June 2008, the department supported a visit by Mr Smith to the Vatican where he met Holy See Secretary of Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, and Undersecretary of Relations with States, Monsignor Pietro Parolin.

The department supported Mr Smith’s visit to Italy in June 2008 to attend the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) High Level Conference on World Food Security. The visit provided an opportunity to establish high-level dialogue with the new Italian Government and highlighted a general like-minded approach to many regional and global issues, in particular our strong commitment to international efforts for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The department continued to support links between Australian states and Italian regions through providing assistance to visits by several Australian state ministers to Italy.

We continued our officials-level dialogue with Spain by holding a round of senior officials’ talks in Madrid in July 2007. The talks resulted in renewed mutual determination to combat illegal fishing activities and to expand cooperation on a range of multilateral issues. The department worked successfully with Austrade and other agencies to advance bilateral commercial interests, in particular through opportunities provided by the award of two major defence contracts to the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia in June 2007. This has raised Australia’s potential among other major Spanish companies and increased interest in doing business with Australia.

The department provided strong assistance for Defence Minister Fitzgibbon’s visit to Turkey in April 2008. Our close cooperation with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Turkish and New Zealand governments again resulted in a highly successful Anzac Day commemoration on the Gallipoli peninsula. An estimated 10 000 people attended the commemorative ceremonies, the largest attendance since the 90th anniversary in 2005. After Anzac Day, the Turkish Government made a public statement commending Australia’s contribution to the commemorations and the state of the bilateral relationship. A round of senior officials’ talks with Turkey in Ankara in July 2007 contributed to the positive momentum of the relationship and reinforced our common interests on a number of regional and global issues.

Photo - See caption below for description
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stephen Smith, with French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Bernard Kouchner, prior to their bilateral talks before the start of the Group of Eight (G8) Foreign Ministers meeting in Kyoto on 26 June 2008.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

Together with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the department gave assistance to relief efforts in Greece following the serious bushfires in August and September 2007. The department assisted Australian citizens living in the areas affected by the fires. Another important step in the bilateral relationship with Greece was the finalisation of negotiations for a social security agreement. The progress has meant the agreement will come into force in both countries earlier than expected on 1 October 2008.

We maintained constructive efforts aimed at resolving the Cyprus dispute, in particular through the provision of support for the role of Australia’s former Special Envoy on Cyprus matters, the Hon. Jim Short.

The department helped safeguard Australian interests in Serbia following the declaration of independence by Kosovo in February 2008, including by providing support to Australians through our embassy in Belgrade. Australia formally recognised Kosovo’s sovereignty on 19 February 2008.

We maintained momentum in Australia’s growing trade and investment relationship with Russia, with the signing of the Australia–Russia Nuclear Cooperation Agreement during former President Vladimir Putin’s visit in September for APEC 2007 Economic Leaders’ Week and bilateral meetings. During the visit, the first ever to Australia by a Russian Head of State, it was agreed to reconvene the Australia–Russia Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation (JCTEC), which Russia will host in the second half of 2008. The department supported ongoing negotiations with Russia on veterinary cooperation, investment protection and promotion, and the exchange of financial intelligence. In January 2008, the department facilitated a meeting between the Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, and Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Alexey Kudrin, in the margins of the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland. The Treasurer also met Mr Kudrin at the G8 Finance Ministers Meeting in Japan in June 2008. The department hosted the first round of officials-level talks with Russia on counter-terrorism issues in June 2008.

The department worked closely with Austrade, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service to facilitate market access for Australian agricultural exports to Russia. Russia is becoming an increasingly important destination for Australian chilled and frozen meat exports, which in 2007 were worth $133.5 million (including $32.4 million of kangaroo meat). Other agricultural products exported to Russia include live animals, dairy products, hides and skins.

The department assisted the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in gaining agreement from the Czech Republic to begin a process of repatriating Indigenous remains held in Czech museums. The department facilitated negotiations with the Czech Republic on a draft social security agreement, a bilateral air services agreement, and the Memorandum of Understanding, signed in May 2008, between the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Czech Republic Financial Analytical Unit concerning cooperation in the exchange of financial intelligence.

The department also facilitated negotiations on bilateral social security agreements with Poland and the Slovak Republic.

In Hungary, research and education links with Australia were boosted as the department assisted in the visit in July 2007 to Australia of Professor Silvestre Vizi, President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Two Hungarian, one Czech, and one Estonian early career researchers were awarded 2008 annual fellowships by the Group of Eight (Go8) leading Australian universities, further strengthening research collaboration.

Australia–Denmark political consultations were held in Australia with the Danish Permanent Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ulrik Federspiel, in May 2008. Mr Federspiel’s visit marked the official reopening of the Danish Embassy in Canberra. The department facilitated a visit by Norway’s Minister for the Environment and International Development in May 2008.

The department supported bilateral meetings between the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd and the Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, during the Boao Forum in April 2008, and between Mr Smith and the Swedish Agriculture Minister, Eskil Erlandsson, during the FAO High Level Conference on World Food Security in June 2008. Mr Smith also held bilateral discussions with the Foreign Trade and Development Minister of Finland, Paavo Väyrynen, at the FAO High-Level Conference on World Food Security in Rome from 3–5 June 2008.

The department supported visits by Parliamentary Delegations from Estonia and Lithuania in March 2008.

TABLE 8. AUSTRALIA’S TRADE IN GOODS AND SERVICES WITH EUROPE
Exports
Exports
Imports
Imports

Goods and services (a)

2006
2007
Trend
growth
2002–2007
2006
2007
Trend
growth
2002–2007
$m
$m
%
$m
$m
%
United Kingdom
12,723
11,711
3.3
10,078
12,121
4.0
Germany
2,299
2,426
0.2
10,280
11,089
4.8
Italy
2,098
1,868
–1.7
5,112
5,482
4.8
France
1,765
1,977
3.1
4,751
5,412
6.9
Netherlands
3,228
3,191
16.9
1,929
2,127
3.4
Total European Union 27 (b)
28,830
27,894
5.7
46,412
51,224
6.4
Russian Federation
722
746
35.0
132
200
11.9
Other Europe
2,088
3,608
14.3
4,323
5,194
8.7
Total Europe
31,640
32,248
6.8
50,867
56,618
6.6

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
(b) For services trade only EU15 up to 2004, EU25 from 2005 to 2006 and EU27 from 2007.
Source: DFAT STARS database and ABS Catalogue 5368.0.

The Special Visits Program

The Special Visits Program (SVP) is a valuable tool for promoting Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests. Its purpose is to bring to Australia influential or potentially influential individuals who can contribute to a greater understanding in their respective countries of Australia’s policies and institutions and who are likely to be in positions that deal with issues of relevance to Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests.

In 2007–08 the department hosted the following European visitors as part of its SVP program: Mr Stéphane Le Foll, member of the European Parliament and Chief of Staff to the Leader of the French Socialist Party; Ms Birgit Homburger, Deputy Chair of Germany’s Free Democratic Party; Ms Maria Rankka, President, Timbro (a Swedish think tank) and CEO of the Free Enterprise Institute; and Dr Sergei Guriev, Rector, New Economic School, Moscow.

 

Outlook

In the year ahead, the department will work to complete the Australia–European Union Partnership Framework Agreement for adoption at the Australia–European Union Presidency Consultations in Paris in October 2008. The department will provide support for negotiations on a comprehensive air services agreement which will begin in November 2008. We will continue to work to achieve increased cooperation between Australia and the EU to conclude the WTO Doha Round, on counter-terrorism and aid activities in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as on energy, climate change, environment, bilateral trade, investment and agricultural reform in the EU. Strengthening links in innovation, research and education will also continue to be important.

The department will continue to pursue opportunities to strengthen our cooperation with NATO, particularly in the context of our troop deployment to Afghanistan as part of ISAF. We will facilitate participation in select Partnership for Peace training activities offered to Australia as a NATO ‘Contact Country’. With regard to bilateral relationships with European countries, our priorities will include: further consolidation of Australia’s cooperation with the United Kingdom on intelligence, law enforcement, defence and international development issues flowing from the second Australia–United Kingdom Ministerial Dialogue to be held in late 2008; working closely with France and other European countries to mark important World War I related commemorations, in particular the 90th anniversary of the Armistice; and the expansion of our defence cooperation with Spain.

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