Annual Report 2008-2009

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > 1.1.4 Europe

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 :: European security :: Europe—bilateral relationships :: Outlook


Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, and French Minister for Foreign and EU Affairs, Mr Bernard Kouchner, in Paris on 29 November 2008.
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The European Union (EU) is an important partner for Australia. We share common approaches to many international challenges and work together in responding to them. The 27 members of the EU as a bloc constitute Australia’s largest trade and investment partner.

In 2008–09, relations with the EU took a significant step forward with the successful negotiation and launch of the Australia–EU Partnership Framework. The Partnership Framework provides new energy and focus to our well-established relationship with the EU. It reflects the commitment made in 2008 by the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, and the European Commission President, Mr José Manuel Barroso, to a new era of creative, broad-based cooperation. Under the Partnership Framework, Australia is working more closely than ever before with the European Union to advance shared interests in areas such as trade, international security, science, innovation, the environment and development and aid effectiveness.

The department strengthened bilateral relations with individual countries of Europe in order to pursue Australia’s political and strategic interests. Two-way visits boosted the momentum of bilateral relationships and offered opportunities for practical cooperation on issues of shared concern. We worked with Australian business to support trade and investment and to open markets. We worked with European members of the G20 to support coordinated responses to the global economic crisis.

European Union

The department led a successful whole-of-government negotiation on the new Partnership Framework. We subsequently supported the work of the Government to give effect to its commitments under the Framework.

Australia–EU Partnership Framework launched

On 29 October 2008, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, and his French counterpart, Mr Bernard Kouchner, representing the French EU Presidency, launched the Australia–EU Partnership Framework during Australia–EU Ministerial Troika Consultations in Paris. The Framework is the principal vehicle underpinning the reinvigorated relationship to which the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, and EC President Mr José Manuel Barroso, committed in April 2008.

The Framework draws together existing areas of Australia–EU cooperation to focus management of the relationship and identify new initiatives and activities to promote closer practical cooperation in pursuit of shared objectives. The Framework is designed to be a ‘living’ document, regularly updated and supplemented to reflect and steer enhanced Australia–EU engagement.

Early outcomes under the Framework include:

The department worked closely with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) on the conclusion of the Australia–European Community Agreement on Trade in Wine. Mr Smith and the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Ms Mariann Fischer Boel, signed the agreement on 1 December 2008. The new agreement, replacing the current agreement (signed in 1994), will benefit Australian wine producers through recognition by the EU of Australian wine-making practices and acceptance of simplified labelling provisions.

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The Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, with the then Russian Federation’s Minister of Agriculture, Mr Alexei Gordeyev, co-chairs of the Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation held in Moscow on 30 October 2008. This was the first meeting of its type since the inaugural Joint Commission meeting held in Canberra in June 1995.
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Other Partnership Framework outcomes supported by the department included the commencement of negotiations for an Australia–EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and for an Australia–EU Security of Information Agreement. We concluded negotiations on revisions to the Mutual Recognition Agreement on conformity assessment. Working closely with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the department responded to EU concerns in regard to visa reciprocity for short-term visitors, culminating in the launch of Australia’s new, EU-wide, online eVisitor system in October 2008.

In cooperation with industry, the department sought to ensure 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, would be undertaken with the necessary scientific rigour and transparency. We ensured that affected Australian stakeholders would have the opportunity to receive information on the development of new regulatory regimes that could affect their businesses with enough lead time to comment.

The fifth Australia–EC Trade Policy Dialogue (TPD) was held in Brussels on 23 June 2009. This TPD included, for the first time, a ministerial-level component, reflecting the commitment by both sides to enhance the bilateral relationship. The Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, and the EC Commissioner for Trade, Baroness Ashton, agreed to explore the development of an early warning mechanism for new domestic regulatory proposals with potential trade impacts. Mr Crean also used the TPD to pursue market access for Australian-farmed mulloway and yellowtail kingfish, to underline Australia’s concerns over the reintroduction by the EU of dairy subsidies, and to promote stronger Australian–EU trade and investment links particularly in the area of clean technologies.

The department and our diplomatic missions in Europe worked with the European Australian Business Council (EABC) to strengthen Australian business engagement with Europe. We participated in EABC activities and assisted the EABC’s business delegation which held discussions with ministers and officials in Canberra in September 2008.

The department led a campaign to secure Australia’s membership of the Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) process of dialogue and cooperation. Australia’s application to join the ASEM process was welcomed by Asian and European Foreign Ministers at the ASEM Hanoi Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (25–26 May 2009). ASEM brings together 16 Asian nations and the ASEAN Secretariat, along with the 27 European Union nations and the European Commission.

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

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

European security

Australia’s relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) deepened considerably as a result of our commitment to the security and stability of Afghanistan. The department supported a visit by Mr Smith to NATO headquarters in December 2008. Mr Smith met the then NATO Secretary-General, Mr Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and addressed the North Atlantic Council. This visit provided a valuable opportunity to emphasise Australia’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan and to acknowledge Australia’s practical cooperation with NATO as, in NATO parlance, a ‘contact country’.

Our ability to work cooperatively with NATO was strengthened in a practical way by the entry into force on 8 May 2009 of the Australia–NATO Agreement on the Security of Information. This agreement will nurture a deeper strategic dialogue through the sharing of classified information on Australia–NATO operations.

The department supported the visit to Australia in September 2008 of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Defence and Security Committee. It also assisted the visit to Poland by the then Defence Minister, Mr Fitzgibbon, in February 2009 for a NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting with an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) component.

Relations with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were strengthened through the visit of its Secretary-General, Ambassador Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, the first by an OSCE Secretary-General to Australia. As a result of the visit, Australia will increase its exchanges with the OSCE on security issues of common interest.

Europe—bilateral relationships

The department helped maintain the dynamism of Australia’s partnership with the United Kingdom by supporting visits by the Prime Minister and Mr Smith. Mr Smith and the then Defence Minister, Mr Fitzgibbon, held wide-ranging discussions with their UK counterparts at the second Australia–UK Ministerial Dialogue (AUKMIN) in Leeds in November 2008. Mr Smith also held separate talks with the Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, and other UK cabinet ministers. Mr Smith’s visit to London in April 2009 further strengthened Australia’s links with the UK.

The Prime Minister’s visit to the UK in March–April 2009 for the G20 Leaders’ Summit and for bilateral talks led to a joint announcement by Mr Rudd and Mr Brown of a bilateral National Security Partnership. This new partnership established a framework for strengthened broad-based security cooperation, based on close historical ties as well as many contemporary points of intersection between each country’s security interests and perspectives.

The department supported visits by Australian ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard, the Treasurer, Mr Wayne Swan, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Mr Anthony Albanese, and the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong. The high number of senior visits added ballast to our engagement with the UK. The department also hosted a visit by James O’Shaughnessy, Director of Policy and Research for the UK Conservative Party, under the Special Visits Program (see sub-output 3.1.2)

Mr Smith’s visit to France in November 2008, which the department coordinated, resulted in the successful launch of the Australia–EU Partnership Framework. We also supported Mr Crean’s visit to Paris in June 2009 for high-level talks with OECD ministerial counterparts. The department was heavily involved in arrangements for the visit by the Governor-General for the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day. We also supported visits by ministers, including the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Mr Alan Griffin. Australia’s wartime legacy with France, including the discovery at Fromelles of a mass grave of Australian World War I soldiers, provides a strong foundation for contemporary people-to-people ties.

We coordinated bilateral talks between Mr Smith and Germany’s then Foreign Minister, Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, at the Oslo Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in December 2008 and at the Hague Conference on Afghanistan in March 2009. The department also supported the visits by a number of ministers. The two countries are cooperating more closely in areas of shared interest, including through Germany’s agreement to participate in the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, an initiative announced by the Prime Minister in September 2008 (see sub-output 1.1.7). Similarly, Germany’s support for the International Commission for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and Australia’s support for the German-initiated International Renewable Energy Agency indicated strong cooperation as a result of work by the department and other relevant agencies.

We coordinated Mr Smith’s visit to Belgium in November–December 2008 for talks with the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Mr Karel De Gucht. These discussions covered our respective engagement in Afghanistan and Africa and the global economic crisis. The department provided support for Mr Crean’s visits to Brussels in October 2008 and June 2009 to advance Australian trade and investment interests. We assisted Treasury to finalise the Protocol to the Australia–Belgium Tax Treaty, which was signed by Mr Crean and the Belgian Finance Minister, Mr Didier Reynders, in Paris in June 2009.

Australia’s joint efforts with the Netherlands in Afghanistan were a focus of the bilateral relationship. The department supported a series of high-level discussions in the Netherlands in March–April 2009 on Afghanistan and related security issues, including between Mr Smith and the Netherlands Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation.

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Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Anne Plunkett with Ireland’s then Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with special responsibility for the Information Society and Natural Resources, Mr Seán Power (left) and Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, Mr Peadar McArdle. Ambassador Plunkett is receiving a room-sized nineteenth century Geological Survey Map of Victoria on behalf of the State Library of Victoria at the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) on 15 July 2008.
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The department coordinated Mr Smith’s meeting with Ireland’s Justice Minister, Mr Dermot Ahern, at the Oslo Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in December 2008. We supported the Prime Minister’s discussions with Ireland’s Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mr Eamon O’Cuiv, during the Irish Minister’s visit to Australia in March 2009. The visit was timed to coincide with Ireland’s national day—an occasion when the close community links between Australia and Ireland are celebrated.

In cooperation with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, we helped finalise agreement on the second protocol to Australia’s social security agreement with Austria, which is expected to be signed later in the year.

Switzerland remains a key source of foreign direct investment (FDI), ranking as the fifth-largest source of Australia’s FDI in 2008. We supported the visit to Switzerland of an Australian parliamentary delegation and hosted talks on regional and international issues with a senior Swiss Foreign Ministry official in Canberra in May.

We supported the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Mr Martin Ferguson, and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Mr Tony Burke, during their visits to Italy for G8 Meetings. The department also contributed to the visit to Rome by the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Mr Bob McMullan, for meetings of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Program to discuss food security. We worked with Austrade on the successful visit to Australia by the Italian Undersecretary for Trade, Mr Adolfo Urso, during which increased opportunities for trade in the agricultural and energy sectors were identified.

We oversaw a significant deepening in Australia’s engagement with the Vatican with the appointment of the Hon. Tim Fischer AC as Australia’s first resident ambassador to the Holy See. This followed the successful visit to Australia for World Youth Day in July 2008 of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. The ambassadorial appointment has enhanced our capacity to engage the leadership of the Catholic Church on such matters of mutual international interest as interfaith dialogue, development, human rights and food security. The department, through the Ambassador and with the help of the Embassy in Rome, helped organise a mass at the Vatican for the victims of the Victorian bushfires.

We provided extensive support for the visit of the King and Queen of Spain to Australia in June 2009. This visit, the first in over 20 years, saw the inauguration of the Cervantes Institute in Sydney and the signing of the Australia–Spain Air Services Agreement. The signing of a joint action plan with Spain highlighted our shared outlook and cooperation on a range of multilateral and bilateral issues. The department hosted an officials-level dialogue with Spain in Canberra in February 2009.

Australia–Portugal political consultations were held in February 2009 in Australia between the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Mr Luis Amado, and Mr Smith. The talks covered a wide range of issues including security and joint cooperation initiatives in East Timor. The department hosted a visit by Ms Sonia Fertuzinhos, member of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal, under the Special Visits Program (see sub-output 3.1.2).

Relations with Greece were strengthened with the entry into force of a bilateral social security agreement on 1 October 2008.

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Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Mr Anthony Byrne, with Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Spain, Mr Ángel Lossada Torres-Quevedo, during the signing of the Australia–Spain Joint Action Plan in Canberra on 24 June 2009.
Photo: Auspic
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Mr Smith’s visit to Cyprus in October 2008, and a return visit by Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou in March 2009, demonstrated Australia’s strong relationship with Cyprus and the longstanding people-to-people links which underpin the relationship. During his visit, Mr Smith met Australian members of the United Nations Peacekeeping force in Cyprus. Mr Smith’s visit, and visits by Australia’s Special Representative for Cyprus, Ambassador David Ritchie, demonstrated Australia’s enduring support for efforts to reach a just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue.

The momentum of Australia’s relationship with Turkey continued to build through the department’s support and coordination of the sixth meeting of the Australia–Turkey Joint Economic Committee on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, hosted by Mr Crean, in February 2009. The meeting identified areas for further trade and development and cooperation in the G20 process. We provided assistance for Mr Smith’s participation in Anzac Day commemorations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Our continued close cooperation with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Turkish and New Zealand governments again resulted in a highly successful commemorative program. The department supported both the official opening by Mr Smith of a Turkish–Australian Cultural Centre at Cannakkale’s 18 March University and the ratification of an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement by the Turkish Parliament.

The first-ever state visit by an Australian Governor-General to Malta occurred in November 2008, highlighting Australia’s very strong community links with Malta. The Maltese President, Mr Edward Fenech Adami, reciprocated with a visit to Australia in February 2009. We supported these visits, which reinforced Australia’s prominent profile in Malta.

The department supported the signing of a bilateral social security agreement with Finland on 10 September 2008.

Mr Smith’s attendance at the signing ceremony of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Norway in December 2008 was the first visit by an Australian Foreign Minister since 1965. While in Oslo, Mr Smith met Norway’s Foreign Minister, Mr Jonas Gahr Støre, and the Minister for the Environment and International Development, Mr Erik Solheim, to exchange views on climate change, weapons proliferation, the Millennium Development Goals and Afghanistan. We also supported the visit to Norway in May 2009 by the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Mr Martin Ferguson, who emphasised Australia’s leadership role in the development of low emission technologies at ‘Fighting Climate Change with Carbon Capture and Storage’, a conference held in Bergen and sponsored by the Norwegian Government.

During the visit to Australia by the Estonian Foreign Minister, Mr Urmas Paet, in April 2009—the first by an Estonian Foreign Minister—Mr Paet officially opened the Estonian Consulate in Perth. In welcoming Mr Paet, Mr Smith announced that Australia and Estonia had agreed to commence negotiation of a bilateral social security agreement.

The fifth round of Senior Officials’ Talks with Poland was held in Canberra in October 2008 and covered a broad agenda of bilateral, multilateral and international security issues.

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Australian Ambassador to Vienna, Mr Peter Shannon, presenting credentials to the President of
the Republic of Kosovo, Dr Fatmir Sejdiu, on 15 September 2008. The Australian Embassy in
Vienna has been accredited as non-resident Embassy to the Republic of Kosovo, the world’s
newest state.
Photo: Office of the President of the Republic of Kosovo
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We assisted the Australian delegation to the Holocaust Era Assets Conference in June 2009, hosted by the government of the Czech Republic during its EU Presidency (January–June 2009).

The department supported the visit to Australia of the then Slovak Foreign Minister, Mr Ján Kubiš, in October 2008, the first by a Slovak Foreign Minister in nine years. A focus of discussion was the commitment Australia shares with Slovakia to Afghanistan, where both countries have forces serving in Oruzgan Province.

The first visits by Australian parliamentary delegations to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, and to Croatia in October 2008, broadened relations with countries in the Balkans. These visits highlighted Australian support for the political and economic reforms each country is undertaking. The department hosted a second round of Senior Officials talks with Bulgaria in October 2008. We supported the negotiation of a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Slovenia which was signed in February 2009.

We conveyed Australia’s concern at military action by Russia in Georgia in August 2008 and provided $1 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to people adversely affected by the conflict.

We deepened our engagement on trade and economic cooperation with Russia. In October 2008, Mr Crean co-chaired in Moscow the Australia–Russia Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Co-operation with then Agriculture Minister, Mr Alexei Gordeyev. This was the first meeting of the Joint Commission since the inaugural meeting in 1995. Mr Crean was accompanied by an Australian business delegation. Outcomes included an agreement to establish an Agricultural Working Group and to take forward negotiations on a memorandum of understanding on meat exports. The department also provided support to the guest of Parliament visit to Australia in March 2009 of the Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council, Mr Sergey Mironov, who met the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, and Mr Smith. We supported meetings between the Prime Minister and Russia’s President, Mr Medvedev, and between Mr Smith and the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr Sergey Lavrov, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week in Lima.


  Exports Exports     Imports Imports  
Goods and services (a) 2007
Trend growth 2003–2008
Trend growth 2003–2008
United Kingdom 11,721 14,082 5.3   12,197 14,366 8.1
Germany 2,426 3,063 5.8   11,003 12,588 6.0
Italy 1,871 2,027 3.0   5,483 6,100 5.4
France (b) 1,977 2,396 10.8   5,413 5,791 4.3
Netherlands 3,179 4,034 18.9   2,128 2,589 6.2
Total European
Union 27 (b)
27,921 32,524 8.3   51,430 58,741 7.8
Russian Federation 747 1,217 46.1   202 676 45.8
Other Europe 3,607 3,298 19.3   4,690 5,813 9.7
Total Europe (b) 32,275 37,039 9.7   56,322 65,230 8.1

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis
(b) Excludes aircraft imports from September 2008 onwards
Sources: DFAT Stars database and ABS Catalogue 5368.0


The department will prepare for the first review of the Australia–EU Partnership Framework and the launch of an updated version of the Framework at Australia–EU Ministerial Troika Consultations in Stockholm later in 2009. We will work to finalise negotiations on a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement. We will support increased cooperation between Australia and the EU in aid delivery, particularly in the Pacific and Africa.

The department will work closely with the EU on efforts to conclude the Doha Round of world trade talks, as well as on international security issues, energy and food security, trade and investment issues (including in relation to agriculture) and the international response to climate change.

We will continue active efforts with European members of the G20 and the EU Presidency to ensure an effective international response to the global economic crisis, including full implementation of commitments made by G20 Leaders at the London and Pittsburgh Summits.

The department will engage with the European Commission President and the new College of Commissioners, to be appointed in 2009–10. If the Lisbon (EU reform) Treaty is implemented, we will work with the new permanent European Council President, the new High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and a more influential European Parliament.

We will pursue opportunities to strengthen cooperation with NATO and the OSCE, particularly in the context of our troop deployment to Afghanistan.

We will work with ASEM members in the lead-up to Australia taking up its seat in ASEM at the next summit to be held in Brussels in 2010.

The department will advance Australia’s bilateral relationships with European countries. We will do this by supporting the implementation of the new National Security Partnership with the UK and deepening bilateral linkages across the full range of Australia–UK interests. The department will also: seek opportunities to promote the positive momentum of deepened engagement with Turkey and Russia; expand cooperation on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues where we share objectives with EU countries; and build on our people-to-people links to enhance trade and investment opportunities and strengthen ties with non-EU member countries.

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