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Q&A with Austrian Ambassador to Pakistan H.E Axel Wech

  • Posted On: 26th September 2013
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Q&A with Austrian Ambassador to Pakistan H.E Axel Wech

Austria and Pakistan have enjoyed steady and friendly relations over the years. On the occasion of opening the first Austrian Food Festival in Islamabad last June,Ambassador Axel Wech said promotion of cultural and economic relations between the two countries was his topmost priority.He said the Austrians view Pakistan as a large country with incredible potential.

Austrian companies based in Pakistan are currently involved in the energy sector, water treatment, construction and plant and mechanical engineering fields. But the largest investment was made by OMV in the oil and gas sector.
In a Q&A with Blue Chip, Ambassador Wech talks of trade and cooperation and how Austria could help Pakistan in the energy sector. He believes Pakistan could benefit from Austrian renewable energy expertise.

How would you describe relations between Pakistan and Austria and how far back in history do they go?

H.E Axel Wech: The relations between Austria and Pakistan are friendly and without frictions and can be traced back to the year 1956, when Pakistan formally recognized Austria and Austria opened a diplomatic representative office in Karachi. A Trade Office has been established from the year 1967 until 2001.

What are the important areas of cooperation between the two countries?

AW : I wish that we would have a more intense political exchange with more visits. We have a good exchange in higher education, and post graduate field and actually a strong and focused presence in the economic field especially with respect to energy.

What is the extent and features of bilateral trade relations?

AW: Bilateral trade relations focus on energy and infrastructure projects as far as Austrian exports are concerned, and textiles, garments and leather goods for Pakistani exports The focus of Austria in the field of hydro power dates back to the beginning of Pakistan in 1946! Just recently the first private hydro power plant New Bong went online with turbines delivered by Austria. The KESC gas turbines are another example of Austrian technology delivered to Pakistan. Regarding infrastructure we are currently engaged in the Lowari tunnel project. These are only a few examples where Austrian technology and expertise are used in Pakistan

The trade volume between the two countries has been increasing steadily and has reached a figure of 150m euros. Austria strongly believes that the potential to further increase the trade volume exists. Austrian companies in the past have been involved in the past with prestigious projects in Pakistan like Tarbela, Ghazi Barotha, Lowari tunneland Pakistan Steel,etc

H.E Axel Wech with Babar Tajamul and Family

H.E Axel Wech with Babar Tajamul and Family

Ambassador H.E Axel Wech on the occasion of the Austrian Food Festival

Ambassador H.E Axel Wech on the occasion of the Austrian Food Festival

In the context of trade relations you had mentioned that ‘a market like Pakistan is difficult to access’. Could you elaborate on that?

AW: The majority of Austrian companies are small and middle sized companies. These companies focus mainly on the EU and the area surrounding Austria. As for Pakistan, the need to upgrade to new and modern technology will be essential and Austrian companies are ready to support the country. Sometimes Austrian SMEs face difficulties in importing from Pakistan as they do not place large orders, and therefore get less attention from Pakistani exporters.

Pakistan has been suffering from severe energy crisis. How can Pakistan benefit from Austrian renewable energy expertise to help alleviate this crisis?

AW: The Austrian company Andritz Hydro is one of the market leaders in hydro energy and is delivering high quality products wordwide. They are also engaged in Pakistan offering state of the art technology. Of course this technology is not cheap.

In the development sector, Austrian government had helped set up Malam Jabba ski resort and tourism school in Swat. Could you give us the details of this project?

AW: Malam Jabba has been handed over to Pakistan. Besides being member of the board from our point of view this project is completed. The accompanying tourism management school in Gil Bhag was taken over by the Pakistani armed forces after they drove out the Taliban in the Swat valley. Currently the building is still under army control.

The Austrian Embassy recently organized a Food Festival in Islamabad as an initiative to enhance tourism in Pakistan. In your view, what are the prospects of Pakistan becoming a tourist destination and what are the challenges it faces in this regard?

AW: Pakistan offers an amazingly beautiful landscape from the mountains up north to the deserts and the coastlines. It is combined with lovely monuments. Unfortunately the security situation as well as training in the tourism sector is hampering currently a broader international tourism. But from my point of view Pakistan does not need to look to Europe or the USA for tourists. The biggest market is just right over the eastern border. A relaxed visa regime with India would offer a huge easy accessible market.

Ambassador Axel Wech thanked by Counselor Mr. Martin B Thelin (Left) and Mr. Babar Tajamul (right) and the new Honorary consul General for Sindh and Baluchistan

Ambassador Axel Wech thanked by Counselor Mr. Martin B Thelin (Left) and Mr. Babar Tajamul (right) and the new Honorary consul General for Sindh and Baluchistan

You have announced a chain of cultural events through 2014. Could you give us a preview of them?

AW: We hope to follow up our Food Festival with some smaller cultural events maybe in the area of classical music.

How long have you been in Pakistan and what are your impressions?

AW: In my nearly 3 years of being in Pakistan I have learned to love and admire the country and its people. I am sure that Pakistan will soon make steps to overcome its problems. Austria is willing to help Pakistan if help is requested.

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