Vlora - "It is a special day for me and I feel moved to be here for the re-opening of the Austrian Consulate in Vlora, in this city which has served as linking bridge between our two countries in the course of the history," has said the Austrian Ambassador to Albania, Johann Sattler in a ceremony during which the Honorary Consulate of Austria for Southern Albania was opened in the city of Vlora on Wednesday.
In his greeting speech on this occasion, which was attended by the Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati, former Albanian President Alfred Mosiu, Vlora Mayor Dritan Leli, the Consul of the Austrian Honorary Consulate in Shkodra, Gjergj Liqejza, representatives of Austrian companies and other invitees, the Ambassador made an historical overview of the starting point of this Consulate saying that in the 19th century the Balkan issues were the focus of the Austrian diplomacy like they are today.
"The Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, Count Leopold Berchtold expressed 'the vital interest' of the Monarchy for the independent development of Albania in a special document so that the Great Powers could not empower along the eastern coastline of the Adriatic," said Mr. Sattler, who pointed out that the Austrian wish was a clear one: "A capable Albania to survive should be created!"
The Ambassador revealed that the consulates opened by the Monarchy helped Albania both in its course towards independence and the strengthening of the national identity.
"The first Austrian consulates were opened more than 200 years ago, concretely in Durres in 1751 and in Shkodra in 1801," he said, adding that it is well-known the extensive support of the Austrian Foreign Ministry to Albania during the years of the preparations for the independent Albanian state.
"What a few people know is that Austria had a representation, a consulate here in Vlora, which played a key role," he said. Further on Mr. Sattler gave information on the tasks carried by that consulate whose first head was Wenzel Leyhanec (1911- 1914), who informed on issues linked with the proclamation of the independence.
"He proposed that measures should be taken for the proclamation of the independence, the creation of a provisional government and the establishment of a commission, which would represent and defend the Albanian rights. All these proposals were adopted," said the Ambassador.
Speaking of the activity of the first Consul, Leyhanec, Austria's top diplomat to Tirana said he became the symbol of stability in the region and of the economic and political support for the government of Ismail Qemali.
Ismail Qemali proclaimed Albania's independence on November 28, 1912 in the city of Vlora.
"The (Austrian) consul was also an advisor to Ismail Qemali for foreign affairs but also a linking bridge with the outside world. Vienna was the center of the Albanian national movement at that time," said Mr. Sattler.
According to him, the Vlora Consulate was removed to Durres in 1914 and Consul Leyhanec left in 1915 and the new government under Esat Pasha expelled him and announced the termination of the diplomatic relations. "An important historical epoch of our diplomatic relations comes to an end at this point," he said.
Speaking of the present, the Austrian Ambassador said that his country wanted to continue where it was left 106 years ago through the launched Consulate whose task would be to bring closer our states, people and cultures. He also saw the Consulate's role in the service of the ever growing number of Austrian tourists, who come to visit the wonderful coasts of the Ionian, but also of the Austrian businesses which are interested for this part of Albania.
"Albania is today before a very important step: the negotiations for the EU accession. Stability, security and rule of law continue to be the worthy goals. Austria will offer its help to achieve them. In the second half of this year Austria will have the rotating EU Presidency and in this frame I wish to assure once more Minister Bushati for our full support. It would a beautiful symbolic act if the start of the negotiations occurs during Austria's EU Presidency," said the Ambassador, Sattler.
Further on, he spoke of the importance of the cooperation in the field of culture because that can help to bring the two countries, but above all the people, closer. In this frame he mentioned the significance of the 2018 Albanian-Austrian Year of Culture and took the opportunity of the event to introduce two highlights of the cultural program of the Consulate: the exhibition with Flashback photos of Robert Pichler and the concert with the great master, Zhani Ciko and "Young Virtuous" orchestra.
The Ambassador spoke also of what he called the very good cooperation with the Austrian Consulate in Shkodra, northern Albania, and he hoped that the Vlora Consulate would play the same role. "We have found in Arben Malaj the appropriate person, who represents the values and virtues of Vlora in a dignified manner and finds the common language with the citizen but with the politician, too," said the Ambassador, who closed his greeting with an Albanian saying: 'Good start, Half of Work Done".
"Let the past be a good example for the future," was Ambassador Sattler's wish.
In his speech, Mr. Arben Malaj, who was assigned as Honorary Consul of the Austrian Honorary Consulate for the region of e Vlora, Fier, Gjirokastra and Saranda, expressed his gratitude for such a post.
"I extend my gratitude to the Austrian government for such a trust and appreciation," said Mr. Malaj, a former finance minister and ex- lawmaker. He also thanked the Albanian government, which welcomed and expedited the procedures for his appointment.
"Being educated as Austrians, functioning as a European state, without doubt we will be an environment having growing demands for joint businesses of European standards," said Mr. Malaj.
For his part the Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati expressed the pleasure to take part in such an event. The opening of the Honorary Consulate will serve the intensification of the bilateral relations between Albania and Austria which date back to two centuries ago.
Further on, he evaluated the location of Vlora, a city in southern Albania, on the Adriatic. "It is a place on which there is no second thought as far as its position is concerned with regard to Albania, the region and our perspective of the Western Balkans in the European Union," said Mr. Bushati.
Albanian Daily News