Fiji looks forward to further strengthening bilateral relations at all levels, especially with Austria and the European Union, and to advancing the priorities of Small Islands States in relevant multilateral fora. This was conveyed by the Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama during a bilateral meeting with the Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria, His Excellency Mr. Alexander Schallenberg, along the margins of the High-Level Segment of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) First State Parties Meeting in Vienna on Tuesday (21/06/22).

At the meeting, the Prime Minister remarked that even though Fiji’s diplomatic relations with Austria are young, he is confident of our shared commitment to building and enhancing our relations going forward. This, he added, will be realised through our cooperation in strategic areas such as climate change, peace and security, human rights, and multilateral cooperation.

Fiji fully appreciates all the support that Austria and the European Union (EU) provide to the country in several areas, including climate change and oceans, direct budget support, trade, and agriculture.

While delving into the importance of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) First State Parties Meeting, the Prime Minister said Fiji attests great importance to the Treaty in our pursuit of peace and the recognition of the importance of preserving our environment for future generations.

He informed H.E Schallenberg that the devastation caused by nuclear weapons in the recent past to our people and our pristine ocean environment is beyond measure, as the Pacific was the testing ground for nuclear weapons, and our forefathers, unfortunately, without their will and knowledge, participated in the tests at Malden and Kiritimati Islands in 1952.

For this, the Prime Minister said that the States Parties Meeting is timely given the current geopolitical environment and that we must work together to pursue peace and one of which is to promote universalisation. The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to convey our appreciation for Austria’s leadership at the multilateral fora as our countries have worked together in New York and Geneva, as members of the Human Rights Council in 2020 and 2021, when Fiji became President of the Council.

Prime Minister Bainimarama also shared Fiji’s economic recovery plans post COVID-19, adding that Fiji is building back better through investing in climate-resilient and sustainable infrastructure and disaster readiness, with a renewed focus on environmentally- sustainable development and conservation.

On the issue of climate change, the Head of Government highlighted that this is a global phenomenon that needs collective global action and we must continue to play our part in advocating for more ambitious global actions. He also commended the Austrian Government’s climate adaptation efforts in alignment with the EU’s overall climate plans and policies.

As countries including Fiji, continue to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the climate crisis, the Prime Minister concluded that it reaffirmed our dependency on each other and the need for multilateralism to be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

In response, His Excellency Schallenberg welcomed the Prime Minister to Austria and thanked him for accepting his invitation to attend the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) First State Parties Meeting. He said Austria also encountered its fair share of challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The Federal Minister also echoed similar sentiments, saying that the TPNW First States Parties Meeting is an important one that renews the call for peace and universalisation.

He also commended Fiji for its steadfast support towards peacekeeping operations, our climate action campaigns, and our efforts towards the advancement of sustainable development, including cooperation in the areas of climate change and oceans.