Austria reopens embassy in Baghdad as Iraq emerges from decades of Turmoil
Austria officially reopened its embassy in the heart of Baghdad on Tuesday, marking the end of a 30-year absence from the region. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, in a show of determination, declared, “We are back and we mean business,” during the inauguration ceremony held at the Babylon Rotana Hotel in downtown Baghdad.
Schallenberg emphasized the pivotal role Iraq plays in regional stability and security, calling it a “key country.” He stated, “It plays an extremely important role in the stability and security of the entire region.” In a joint press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, Schallenberg announced that ten Austrian business leaders had accompanied him, representing various sectors eager to invest in Iraq. These sectors include energy, healthcare, telecommunications, transportation, and infrastructure – all vital industries in a nation recovering from the scars of war, where infrastructure, including roads and the power grid, is in dire need of repair.
“The strongest signal of trust is that 10 well-known Austrian companies are part of my delegation, who are ready to invest here, who are ready to build a business here,” Schallenberg affirmed. According to the Austrian Economic Chambers, Austrian exports to Iraq surged to 94.5 million euros ($101 million) last year, marking a significant 25 percent increase from the previous year.
Schallenberg also addressed the issue of irregular migration, revealing that agreements had been signed regarding the readmission of Iraqis residing illegally in Austria. The Austrian embassy in Iraq had closed its doors in 1991 during the Gulf War. Since then, the embassy in neighboring Jordan had handled its functions. Nevertheless, Vienna insisted that relations between Iraq and Austria “were never cut off.”
While Iraq, an oil-rich nation, has made strides in returning to stability after over four decades of conflicts, it still grapples with political turmoil and corruption. The excessive influence of neighboring Iran has been a subject of concern for many Iraqis, with the Iranian presence evident in armed factions and pro-Tehran political parties that support the current Iraqi government and dominate the parliament.