The year 2017 marked the 45th year anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Austria and Vietnam. SOCIETY spoke with Ambassador H.E. Vu Viet Anh about this friendship, his love for Vienna and the trade exchange between both countries.
In November 2014, your post as an ambassador brought you to Austria – how have your experiences been so far?
I am honoured to be appointed as Ambassador of Vietnam to Austria and Permanent Representative of Vietnam to the IAEA and other international organizations in Vienna. As one of the world’s top cities with lively diplomatic activities and host city to hundreds of foreign missions, Vienna is the centre of leading diplomats with diversified and interesting professional lives. The most important task of a diplomat is to maximize his/her national interests by bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activities. A diplomat’s life is eventful with exchanges, meetings and receptions. To some, such a life would be boring. To me however, it is a great opportunity brought to me by Vienna. Why? Because thanks to those activities, I earn knowledge, experience and make new friends, those who share with me a desire in promoting the Vietnamese-Austrian friendship, as well as developing a relationship between Vietnam and other countries.
What have your most important projects been so far?
My prevalent priority is to bring the Vietnamese-Austrian relationship to a sustainable and comprehensive level, being intensive and effective, especially in the field of trade and economic cooperation.
I am contented to note that over the past 3 years, the Vietnamese-Austrian trade relationship has leaped outstandingly with an annual average rise of 15 percent, from 2.1 billion USD in 2013 to 3 billion in 2016.
Furthermore, the year 2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Austria. We have cooperated with relevant Vietnamese agencies and Austrian authorities to organize the Vietnam Culture Day event at the Vienna Rathaus from 3rd to 6th July this year. Through the traditional art and music performance, namely “Colours of Vietnam” and the photo exhibition “Vietnam – the World’s destination in 2017”, organized within the framework of the Vietnamese Culture Day, Austrian and international friends have opportunities to further understand Vietnam’s history, culture, art and landscape.
In your previous posts you served as Attaché at the Vietnamese missions in the United States of America and Russia, how would you describe the differences of everyday life of a diplomat?
A diplomat’s life is to spend years of being away from the homeland with the willingness to adapt to different cultures, codes of conduct and working methods. However, no matter where he is posted, the task of establishing and developing the relationship between Vietnam and the host country remains unchanged. Nevertheless, while Moscow and Washington are areas where I needed to focus on promoting bilateral relationships, Vienna is different with its own characteristics. In addition to advancing the Vietnamese-Austrian relationship, I am the Permanent Representative of Vietnam to the United Nations, IAEA and other international organizations in Vienna. Having both to undertake bilateral diplomatic task and participate in multilateral mechanism, life of a diplomat in Vienna is very busy, somewhat challenging. However, this is also a good opportunity for him/her to perform his/her best capacity and knowledge in serving his/her nation’s interests.
What can you tell us about the tradition of bilateral relationship between Austria and Vietnam?
In 1972, when the war in Vietnam was still going on, Austria was among the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam. In the 1960s and 1970s of the last century, while the resilient Vietnamese were struggling through America’s devastating bombings, hundreds of thousands of Austrian people took to street in campaigns to support Vietnam in her fight for national independence and unification. In fact, the Vietnamese-Austrian relationship has witnessed a long history, since the existence of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The Austro-Hungarian Honorary Consulate was established in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1869.
Over the past 45 years, since the official establishment of the diplomatic relations, the friendship and cooperation between the two countries have been constantly advancing. This is proven by the constant exchange of visits at all levels, including Head of State, Head of Government, National Assembly, ministries, agencies and provincial administrations. The two countries’ economic relation has seen active promotion.
What is the bilateral trade exchange between Austria and Vietnam?
According to statistics provided by Vietnam in 2016, the two way trade value reached 3 billion USD. Vietnam’s major export items to Austria include mobile phones, footwear, garment and textile. Austria exports to Vietnam consist of high technology products, mechanics, iron and steel, medicines and livestock food.
The two way trade value has seen a quick growth in recent years, at an annual average rise of 15 percent. The trade value in 2016 was 13 times bigger than that of the year 2010. Austria is currently the 6th trade partner of Vietnam in Europe.
What are the main projects in the economical bilateral relations between Vietnam and Austria?
Though being one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam, Austria‘s investment to Vietnam is still modest, yet to match with the economic potential of Austria and the needs for investment fund and technology of Vietnam. By 2016, Austria runs 30 active projects, total registered capital of 105.38 million USD, ranking in the 43th position among 112 countries and territories investing in Vietnam.
Apart from projects in the private sector, cooperation projects in the public sector are being effectively conducted with Austrian credit, such as the research and development of after-harvest technology in the Mekong Delta basin; Equipment for the Cho Ray Hospital (Ho Chi Minh city), Hospital No.175, No.198, Hospital of the Air Force and Defence Academy; education and vocational training projects, provision of fire distinguishing equipment and many more.
What do you like best about Vienna?
This is my second term in Austria. I had many reasons to return to this beautiful country: the romantic city of Vienna with its ancient coffee houses, the world’s cultural heritages, the world’s music and art capital to name a few. Above all, I am particularly impressed by the warm hospitality of the Austrian people, its internationality and kind-hearted Austrian friends who always support Vietnam and join their hands with me to promote the Vietnamese-Austrian relationship.
How many Vietnamese are living in Austria? How would you describe the community network?
There are about more than 5.000 Vietnamese expatriates living in Austria, most of them are in Vienna, Linz, Graz and Innsbruck. A majority of Vietnamese expatriates have an Austrian citizenship, about 10 to 15 percent of them keep their Vietnamese citizenship. Vietnamese people in Austria are working in companies, plants and in the service sector. Some run their own restaurants, or Asian food stores – especially in Vienna and in some other touristic cities. Vietnamese restaurants are quite popular among Austrian people.
The Vietnamese community in Austria shares a strong solidarity and interest in maintaining their cultural identity, at the same time, actively integrates into the Austrian society, in accordance with the national law and regulations in Austria. They are proactively contributing to the general development of the Austrian society, adding a tone to the diversified culture of Austria, particularly in the field of culinary and gourmet.
In addition, hundreds of Vietnamese students are conducting their research and studies in Austria. I would say that these students in particular and the Vietnamese community in general have founded solid bridges to linking Vietnamese and Austrian nations together for the mutual happiness and prosperity.
CV of Ambassador Dr. Vu Viet Anh
H.E. Vu Viet Anh was born on 02. November 1963. He is married and has three children. He has a Master in International Journalism from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Soviet Union and a PhD in Economics from the Research Institute of International Politics and Economics at the Russian Federation Academy of Sciences. From1995 to 1997 he was Attaché at the Embassy of Vietnam in the Russian Federation. In 1998 he was Attaché, at the Embassy of Vietnam in the United States of America. From 2006 to 2009 he served as Minister Counsellor at the Embassy of Vietnam in Austria. From 2009 to 2014 he was Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2014, he is the Ambassador of Vietnam to Austria and Slovenia.