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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

1.1.4 Europe


Over the last year, a sovereign debt crisis has created political turmoil in Europe and driven the region into economic downturn. Still, the imperative for stronger engagement with the European Union (EU) remains unaltered; as a bloc, it continues to be our second largest trading partner and largest investor. We have worked hard to maintain the momentum in Australia–EU relations.

The department led negotiations on an Australia–EU Framework Agreement, aiming to give further impetus to our broad-based cooperation and dialogue with the EU on global challenges, trade and economic issues.

We secured substantive outcomes from major visits to Australia, including by the President of the European Commission, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and ministers from Russia, Portugal, France and Ireland.

During the June 2012 visit to Australia by the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), we signed an historic Joint Political Declaration on our partnership's strategic rationale and future cooperation.

Our relationship with France was elevated to the level of a Strategic Partnership, providing a framework for deeper bilateral cooperation in the future. We began work towards a similar Strategic Partnership with Germany.

Continuing our close and cooperative relationship, the fourth round of Australia–United Kingdom Foreign and Defence Ministers' consultations (AUKMIN) was held in London in January 2012.

Photo of The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, meeting British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, Foreign Secretary, Mr William Hague, and Defence Secretary, Mr Philip Hammond, at AUKMIN in London, January 2012. Photo: Andrew Parsons/i-images.

The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, meeting British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, Foreign Secretary, Mr William Hague, and Defence Secretary, Mr Philip Hammond, at AUKMIN in London, January 2012. Photo: Andrew Parsons/i-images.

Our relationship with Turkey was advanced through Prime Minister Gillard's April visit, during which she and her Turkish counterpart announced a year of cultural exchange between our two countries in 2015.

Our embassy in Moscow supported a number of ministerial and official visits, as Russia prepares to host the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in September 2012.

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

European Union

The department assisted in arrangements for the first-ever official visits to Australia by European Commission President Manuel Barroso and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton (September and October 2011 respectively).

We worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, AusAID, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and other agencies to secure substantive outcomes from these visits, including decisions to establish a senior officials' climate change dialogue, and to implement arrangements for delegated aid cooperation to deliver aid more effectively in the Pacific and Africa.

The department, in collaboration with the EU Delegation, hosted a well-attended Europe Day event in May to mark the 50th anniversary of Australia's diplomatic relations with the EU. Senator Carr delivered the keynote address.

The department led cross-government negotiations with the EU on a treaty-level Framework Agreement, which will provide a strengthened framework for bilateral relations and for cooperation on a broad range of global challenges.

We also led negotiations on an agreement to facilitate Australian participation in EU Crisis Management Operations, working closely with the Department of Defence, the Attorney-General's Department and other agencies.

Our embassy in Brussels conducted effective advocacy to encourage the smooth passage of the revised Passenger Name Record Agreement through the European Parliament and Council. The Agreement, which is important to Australia's border security, came into effect on 1 June 2012.

We continued to step up our engagement with the European Parliament, in recognition of its increased powers under the Lisbon Treaty. In April 2012, the department supported an Australian parliamentary visit to EU institutions and, in May, a visit to Australia by Alexandre Stutzmann, diplomatic adviser to the new President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz.

The department worked with partners in Europe and Asia to resolve Australia's regional group status in the Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM). Australia was admitted into ASEM's Asian group at the Copenhagen ASEM senior officials' meeting in March 2012.

We engaged EU officials and leaders on developments in the Asia-Pacific, including in relation to Myanmar, Fiji and PNG.

Through regular ministerial, parliamentary and official-level contact in Canberra, Brussels and in EU member state capitals, the department worked constructively on bilateral and multilateral trade issues, including promoting 'new pathways' in the WTO Doha round. The department hosted the annual senior officials-level Trade Policy Dialogue in Canberra in February 2012.

Our embassy in Brussels hosted a seminar on trade in services in January 2012 which brought together policy makers, academics and industry representatives to investigate barriers that could be restricting trade in that area between the EU and Australia.

Posts in Brussels, Berlin and The Hague organised and supported a senior-level European Australian Business Council visit to Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands in June 2012. The visit deepened ties between business communities and promoted Australia as an attractive trade and investment partner.

Photo of The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, with NATO Secretary General, Mr Anders Fogh Rasmussen, after the International Security Assistance Force Foreign Ministers' meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels in April 2012. Photo courtesy of NATO.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, with NATO Secretary General, Mr Anders Fogh Rasmussen, after the International Security Assistance Force Foreign Ministers' meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels in April 2012. Photo courtesy of NATO.

European security

During the June 2012 visit to Australia by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Australia and NATO signed a high-level Joint Political Declaration. The Declaration sets out the strategic rationale of the Australia–NATO partnership, encapsulating our cooperation in Afghanistan and beyond. It is the first Declaration of its kind signed by NATO.

In a further sign of our strengthening relationship, Australia's Ambassador to the EU, Dr Brendan Nelson, was given the concurrent role of Australian Ambassador to NATO. The department also supported Senator Carr's attendance at the April 2012 NATO Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Brussels. In January 2012, then Foreign Minister, Mr Rudd, spoke at the North Atlantic Council, NATO's highest decision-making body.

The department supported Mr Rudd's attendance at the February 2012 Munich Security Conference and December 2011 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial Meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania. The OSCE has been in the vanguard of regional security confidence-building initiatives and continues to play an important role in Central Europe and the Balkans. Partnership through the OSCE is also a major plank in our relationships with the countries of Central Asia.

We continued our contribution to the OSCE's efforts to promote human rights, fight human trafficking and tackle money laundering. An Asian Partner for Cooperation of the OSCE since 2009, Australia will for the first time host the annual Asian Partners Conference in 2013.

Personal Profile:

Peter Nagy

Photo of Peter Nagy

As First Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Moscow, Peter reports on political developments in Russia and how they impact on Australia's interests. During Russia's March parliamentary elections, Peter was invited by the Russian Government to join other diplomats as an international observer. He also works on human rights, crime and social issues.

Russia's importance to Australian foreign policy is increasing both bilaterally and multilaterally. Bilateral trade is growing, and a range of agreements are under negotiation. Russia is also hosting APEC in 2012 and the G20 in 2013; and is a permanent UN Security Council member and a member of the East Asia Summit.

"It has been a unique opportunity to be able to focus on a country as complex and interesting as Russia, particularly at a time when its future still involves a lot of guesswork. Speaking to political and NGO contacts, my work often feels like that of an investigative journalist on the trail of an elusive story. But a better strategic, political and cultural understanding of Russia can advance many of Australia's interests, be they in agriculture or arms control."

Prior to his posting to Moscow, Peter worked on the Japan Desk in Canberra; at the Australian Embassy in Belgrade; and undertook a five-week mission to Antarctica, supporting the Australian Antarctic Division's engagement with Russia and other countries active on the continent.

Europe – bilateral relationships

We continued to build on our close and cooperative relationship with the United Kingdom. The fourth round of AUKMIN, held in London in January 2012, enabled deeper cooperation and dialogue on issues of common interest, including developments in the Arab world, economic and security challenges in the East Asian and the Indian Ocean regions, transition in Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear program.

The High Commission in London supported a large number of ministerial and official visits to the UK and worked effectively on preparations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Reciprocal visits by Mr Rudd and former Foreign Minister Alain Juppé developed a stronger basis for cooperation between Australia and France. Mr Juppé's visit in September 2011 was the first by a French foreign minister since 1983. The two ministers signed a bilateral Joint Statement, which elevated the relationship to the level of a Strategic Partnership during Mr Rudd's subsequent visit to France in January 2012. The Statement captures the strengths and maturity of contemporary Australian–French engagement and provides a solid basis for the future evolution of the relationship. The Australia France Foundation continued to support development of cultural ties (also see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

We continued to strengthen relations with Germany, Europe's leading economy, by supporting a number of visits by ministers and senior officials. These included a visit to Germany by Mr Rudd in January 2012 and senior officials' talks in Canberra in March 2012. In January 2012, Foreign Ministers announced a commitment to work towards a bilateral Strategic Partnership, which will provide a framework for deeper bilateral cooperation into the future. The department also worked with German counterparts to develop a program of events and activities to mark the 60th year anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Germany in 2012.

We advanced Australia's economic, security and political interests through strengthened cooperation with other European partners, including the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium. This was achieved by support for visits, advocacy in capitals and intensified officials-level dialogue.

The department supported a visit to Australia for St Patrick's Day 2012 by Ireland's Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter. The visit highlighted the depth of bilateral people-to-people links and provided an opportunity to exchange views in the lead-up to Ireland's EU presidency in the first half of 2013.

In 2012, we marked the 70th anniversary of Australia's diplomatic relations with Russia. During a January 2012 visit to Australia by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, ministers agreed to enhance bilateral exchange and capitalise on opportunities in the period ahead, including Russian hosting of APEC in 2012 and our shared membership of the G20 troika in 2013–14. Our intensified engagement with Russia has enabled us to reinforce Australian views on regional issues, as well as on international issues of concern, such as Syria and Iran.

Photo of The Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Mrs Elliot, after the launch of 'Future Unlimited', an international education initiative, in Vladivostok, Russia, March 2012.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Mrs Elliot, after the launch of 'Future Unlimited', an international education initiative, in Vladivostok, Russia, March 2012.

During her visit to Turkey in April 2012, Prime Minister Gillard joined Prime Minister Erdoğan in designating 2015 as the Year of Australia in Turkey and the Year of Turkey in Australia. The Prime Ministers also announced the establishment of a joint coordinating body to identify and carry out activities that will enhance historical, social and cultural links. The consulate in Çanakkale oversaw the completion of crucial preservation works at Anzac Cove.

The department supported the visit of the Governor-General to Cyprus in June 2012. In addition to discussions with President Christofias and senior Cypriot officials, the Governor-General met with the 15-strong Australian contingent deployed in the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus.

The Prime Minister's Special Envoy, Dr Russell Trood, undertook visits to Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Dr Trood also attended the Sixth Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia. The department worked closely with Dr Trood to develop a program that underscored Australia's commitment to broader engagement with Europe and in particular with Central and Eastern European states.

Australia's commitment to relations with smaller European states was emphasised by Parliamentary Secretary Marles' visit to Albania, San Marino and Andorra, the first such visit by a member of an Australian Government. Mr Marles' discussions built on increased ministerial engagement in recent years and focused on our growing cooperation in international forums.

In October 2011, the department supported a visit to Australia by Georgia's Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze. The visit preceded the appointment of Georgia's first Ambassador to Australia in March 2012. A visit in May 2012 by Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Khalafov was an opportunity to showcase Australian experience in transport infrastructure.

The department contributed to the visit by the President of Portugal, President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, the first by a Portuguese President in a decade. We also supported Senator Carr's program of calls in Malta on his first visit to Europe as Foreign Minister.

With Italy, the department hosted a visit by Dr Enrico Letta, Deputy Secretary of the centre-left Democratic Party. Dr Letta, a former Minister for European Affairs, met with a range of public, private and academic institutions, as well as with key government ministers. The department expanded its cooperation with Montenegro through participation in the 2011 Summer School for Young Diplomats in Podgorica.

With AusAID, the department enabled an Australian contribution of $1.2 million to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, which will support Ukraine's transformation of the Chernobyl site into a safe and secure area.

In recognition of the vital role of Poland's Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation in ensuring the horrific events of the Holocaust are never forgotten, Australia made a $500 000 contribution toits work.Contributions from Australia and other countries will ensure the Foundation can carry out conservation works on the grounds of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial.

In November 2011, Australia assumed its role as Chair of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an organisation based in Sweden. In cooperation with AusAID, the department is helping International IDEA boost its engagement in the Asia-Pacific.

Australia had the opportunity to work closely in Afghanistan with Slovakia, with whom we share a role in Uruzgan Province. In May 2012, the department hosted a visit by Slovakia's Deputy Minister for Defence, which provided an opportunity for in-depth discussions about the future of Uruzgan and the transition to Afghan-led security.

In November 2011, Hungary welcomed Molly and Wally, two Tasmanian wombats, making Budapest Zoo one of only four European zoos to exhibit wombats. The new arrivals joined other members of the Zoo's 'Australian House', which is showcasing the wildlife and culture of the Australian region and highlighting aspects of nature conservation.

In May 2012, our embassies cooperated to bring soprano, composer and author Deborah Cheetham and accompanist Toni Lalich on a visit to Roma communities in Hungary, Serbia andCroatia. Ms Cheetham ran workshops and spoke about her Australian Aboriginal experience, focusing on themes of empowerment, cultural self-determination and aspiration.

Table 4. Australia's trade in goods and services with Europe (a)

Imports (b)
Imports (b)
Goods and services
Trend growth 2006–2011
Trend growth 2006–2011
United Kingdom
France (b)
Total European Union 27 (b)
Russian Federation
Other Europe
Total Europe (b)

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.

(b) Imports total excludes imports of ABS confidential items (mainly aircraft) from September 2008 onwards.

Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.


With the likelihood of continued political and economic uncertainty in Europe, we will need to work hard to maintain the momentum achieved over the past year in strengthening Australia–EU relations and continue to advocate our value as a partner for Europe.

The department will again lead negotiations for a treaty-level Australia–EU Framework Agreement and a Crisis Management Agreement. Once negotiations are concluded, we will engage in advocacy to support their passage through European institutions.

We will continue to promote Australian interests and work with business on trade and investment issues in Europe, including assessing the implications on Australian interests of evolving economic developments in Europe.

Our hosting of the OSCE Asian Partners Conference in 2013 will be an important opportunity to engage European and Central Asian partners on traditional and human security, as well as good governance.

We will take the opportunity to increase engagement with Russia in the G20 and APEC contexts, in order to continue to build the bilateral relationship. Our embassy in Moscow will support Australian attendance at the remaining APEC meetings, including the Leaders' Summit in Vladivostok.

As 2015 draws nearer, we will continue to work closely with Turkey on developing a program of events to commemorate the Gallipoli centenary and to celebrate the diversity of the contemporary relationship.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade