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France and Austria

Political relations

France and Austria maintain friendly political relations.

Austria and France share many converging views on European issues (search for balance between fiscal rigour and support for growth, enhanced cooperation on the financial transaction tax long promoted by Austria, commitment to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), etc.).

There are frequent contacts at ministerial level.

The Austrian President Mr Heinz Fischer visited France on 5 and 6 November 2013, where he met with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann was received by the French President in October 2012 and 2015 and in February 2016, and by the Prime Minister in June and August 2014. The French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Vienna in January 2014, while his successor Manuel Valls visited Vienna in November 2014 and September 2015.

The Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Mr Sebastian Kurz, joined the republican march in Paris on 11 January 2015, while the Minister of the Interior MsJohanna Mikl-Leitner attended the G10 meeting organized by the French Interior Minister Mr Bernard Cazeneuve. Mr Kurz also met Mr Laurent Fabius in Vienna in July 2015.

The Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe is an instrument of bilateral dialogue

The Austro-French Centre (AFC) for Rapprochement in Europe was created in 1978 on the initiative of Austrian Chancellor BrunoKreisky and French President JacquesChirac to foster contacts between Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc. The AFC is based in Vienna and financed equally by both governments. It organizes conferences and seminars followed by publications on bilateral relations and major European issues focused on Central, Eastern and Balkan Europe (http://oefz.at/dev/en/).

Economic relations

At the end of 2013, there were 331 French businesses in Austria employing 16,117 people. In 2014, France was the sixth-largest investor in Austria. The vast majority (60%) of French investment goes to the business services sector. Financial services account for 11% of investment. Many companies are regional in scope and use Austria as a bridgehead towards Central and Eastern European countries and other countries beyond. This is notably the case of companies such as Air Liquide, Alcatel Lucent, JC Decaux and VINCI Energies.

France is Austria’s seventh-biggest supplier, with a 2.7% market share. French exports mainly consist of intermediate goods, professional equipment and automotive industry products. Luxury goods and food products are highly regarded by consumers in Austria.

France ranks as Austria’s fifth-largest customer. Over the past ten years imports have further increased and gradually done away with our recurrent surplus: the balance now shows a deficit of €1.9 billion, of which €1billion in pharmaceuticals.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

French remains the most widely studied foreign language in Austria after English (10.5% of pupils are taught). In view of the importance given to French by the Austrian authorities in their education system, Austria gained observer status at the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) in 2006.

Our cultural relations are especially close. Many French artists, musicians and intellectuals are received regularly in Austria.

Our cultural cooperation is implemented by the Vienna-based French Institute in Austria - IFV (http://institut-francais.at). Following the sale of the Clam Gallas Palace in Vienna, the new premises of the French Institute in Austria at 38Praterstraße will make it possible to refocus its activities around the priorities of France’s cultural diplomacy, such as partnerships with Austrian institutions, “Beyond the Walls” events in Vienna and in the Länder, renewal of teaching and communication tools, etc.

The French Lycée in Vienna (Vienna French high school) was founded in 1946 and is attended by more than 1900 students, 52% of whom are Austrian and 8% hold dual nationality.

Academic and education cooperation programmes are significant and diverse. France is the second most important destination for Austrian students after Spain and ahead of the United States.

In the scientific field, cooperation takes place directly between research laboratories and organizations (French National Centre for Scientific Research - CNRS, French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control - INRIA, French Research Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Engineering - CEMAGREF), as well as under the Hubert-Curien Amadeus Integrated Action Plan (IAP). In addition, significant cooperation has been noteworthy among scientists of both countries in the framework of European programmes (after Germany, France and the United Kingdom are Austria’s main partners in the programmes of the 6th EU Framework Research and Development Programme - FRDP). Moreover, the further development of Austrian competence centres through the new government programme COMET (Competence Centres for Excellent Technologies) should enhance dialogue between the newly created French competitiveness clusters and older generation Austrian clusters/competence centres, mainly in the automotive, plastics and biotechnology sectors.

Updated: 21/04/2016

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