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H.E. Dr. Eva Hager The Austrian Ambassador to Thailand

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H.E. Dr. Eva Hager The Austrian Ambassador to Thailand

 

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Austria – officially the Republic of Austria –  is a country in Central Europe comprising of nine federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879km2 (32,386sqm), a population of nearly nine million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the North, Hungary and Slovakia to the East, Slovenia and Italy to the South, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the West. The terrain is landlocked and highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500m (1,640ft), and its highest point, the “Großglockner”, is 3,798m (12,461ft). German in its standard form is the country’s official language. Small bilingual populations speak also Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene. Austria played a central role in European history from the late 18th to the early 20th Century when it was a multinational great power under the reign of the Habsburg family which covered large parts of central and Eastern Europe. It initially emerged as a Margraviate around 976 and developed into a duchy and later an archduchy. In the 16th Century, Austria started serving as the heart of the Habsburg Monarchy and the junior branch of the House of Habsburg, one of the most influential royal houses in history. As an archduchy, it was a major component and administrative centre of the Holy Roman Empire.

 

Following the dissolution of this loose association of states, Austria founded its own empire in the beginning of the 19th Century, which became a great power and the leading force of the German Confederation. The latter was created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to replace the former Holy Roman Empire. The rivalry between the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia led to the Austro-Prussian War and subsequently to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 which established the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on a visit to Sarajevo/Bosnia by a separatist triggered the First World War which Austria lost. The consequences were the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy and the subsequent formation of the first Republic of Austria consisting of most of the German-speaking Danubian and Alpine provinces. Austrian-born Adolf Hitler became Germany’s Head of Government in 1933, a position he used to promote an aggressive expansionism and racial policies which were the root of the Second World War and the Holocaust.

 

Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy with a President as head of state and a Chancellor as head of government. Major urban areas of Austria include Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck. Austria is consistently ranked as one of the richest countries in the world by per capita GDP terms. The country has developed a high standard of living and in 2018 was ranked 20th in the world for its Human Development Index. The republic declared its perpetual neutrality in times of peace and war in 1955. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955 and joined the European Union in 1995. Since 1979, Vienna is one of the seats of the United Nations beside New York, Geneva and Nairobi. Vienna is a hub for international diplomacy harbouring also numerous other international organisations, such as the OSCE, the IAEA, OPEC and the OPEC Fund, UNIDO and others. Austria  is a founding member of the OECD and Interpol. Austria also signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995, and adopted the euro currency in 1999.

 

Expat Life had the pleasure to sit down and talk with H. E. Dr. Eva Hager the Austrian Ambassador to Thailand to find out more where she came from, her posting to Thailand and her objectives whilst she is here.

 

How long have you been the Ambassador to Thailand?

 

I arrived in Thailand in September 2017, from my previous assignment as Austrian Ambassador to Mexico, where I had been accredited also to the countries of central America. In December 2017, I received the formal royal permission to exercise my duties as Austrian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand. I had the honour of presenting my credentials accrediting me as the Austrian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to His Majesty King Rama X in an impressive and unforgettable ceremony in December 2018. 

 

Where are you born and brought up?

 

I was born in Vienna in 1957 and brought up in a village at the outskirts of Vienna, in the province of Lower Austria. At the age of 17, I moved permanently to Vienna, the capital of Austria, which has always attracted me as a thriving social and cultural centre.

 

Before concluding my studies of Arabic and Political Sciences at the University of Vienna, I was assigned, in the early 80s, to accompany visits of Austrian Ministers to Arab countries and visits of Arab dignitaries in Vienna as an interpreter. I also taught already advanced Arabic at the Hammer Purgstall Academy (a private Institute for Oriental studies, initially the forerunner of the Vienna Diplomatic Academy during the age of Empress Maria Theresia, 18th Century). It was at that time, that I started seriously thinking of developing my career toward the diplomatic track. I was probably 27 years old at that time.

 

Do you have more diplomats in your family?

 

None of my ancestors nor other family members have been in the diplomatic service. My father was an agricultural engineer and my mother was a teacher.

 

How do you look at Thailand today? Have you had any obstacles since you arrived?

 

The country is a world master in exports, and one of the prime tourist destinations of the world. As chair of ASEAN in 2019, it also instils a lot of dynamics into regional processes of integration and cooperation. Thailand is a connectivity-hub in SE Asia and eagerly heading toward development of the digital economy and society in real terms. Personally, I have not encountered any obstacles in my life in Bangkok. As a diplomatic representative we are treated with the utmost respect, and both the public as well as the private sector are eager to facilitate our lives in many ways.

 

Do you see any similarities between your country and Thailand?

 

At a superficial glance it is difficult to find many similarities between a tropical country of Buddhist outlook and a central European country rooted in Baroque traditions. That goes from the climate to vegetation, landscapes or food. Colourful ethnic traditions as you find them in Thailand with the hill-tribes, the Sea Gypsies or different religions are hardly entrenched in a more uniform society such as Austria. However, like Thailand we also have a great diversity of nature and landscapes on our territory, from the alpine high rising mountains with snow almost throughout the year, to fertile flatlands, hilly picturesque wine-growing areas, or lake sanctuaries. Nature, but also culture, with different characteristics, is attractive in both countries. A similarity between Austria and Thailand is certainly the touch of refined sophistication and elegance, e.g. Thai dance perfection in comparison to Viennese classical music culture, delicious food – for the spicy palate in Thailand, and the sweet tooth in Austria – being exquisitely prepared and presented in both countries, and the spirit of refined sociality in outdoor places such as restaurants, coffee-houses or concert halls.

 

Do you have children?

 

My son is twenty-four years old and has lost his heart to studying the Chinese language and culture.

 

What does an average day look like?

 

Usually, my days are very varied. As the Head of Mission, I am not confined to one area of work. I have, of course, to monitor the political, economic and social situation in the countries, to which I am accredited, that includes also Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. I am constantly in motion to foster and strengthen contacts and cooperation in many fields, in a never-ending dynamic process. It includes, of course, high-level meetings and travelling, listening to and participating in intellectual debates but also presence at cultural and social events, and organising that type of activities by the Embassy for our guests.

 

But I have also to overlook the smooth conduct of the consular business as a general supervisor, or the administration of the Embassy and the residence as well as financial and personnel affairs, certainly aloof of small details, as there are chiefs for each area.

 

As an Ambassador, I am obliged to be an all-rounder much more than any of my collaborators, even the most senior ones. Usually, in the morning at breakfast, I read the local and international news on papers and the internet. In the office, I focus first on priority tasks and set the daily priorities. I may call in collaborators to discuss specific matters. My agenda provides the flow of the day, from office work and meetings or other activities outside. Many times, I have to attend outside activities in the evening such as – but not limited to – the National Day Receptions of other diplomatic colleagues.

 

I assume you have some goals you really would like to fulfil before you leave Thailand. What are they?

 

We are especially active this year, 2019, as we celebrate the 150 years’ Anniversary of our relations with Thailand, inaugurated in 1869 by a Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation between the Kingdom of Siam and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. To commemorate the auspicious occasion of 150 years of Friendship, the Austrian Embassy team is organising multifaceted cultural and social events and activities throughout the year. We have started the year with a performance of the famous Viennese boys’ choir on 9th of January and the presentation of the Jubilee programme.  Major concerts followed, such as the performance of the Giocoso String Quartet, an ensemble that has been recipient of important international awards such as the Viva Australia 2015 or Aix En Provence Festival 2012 Awards, on 14th of June, and a concert by the Princess Galyani Vathana Youth Orchestra under the baton of the renowned Austrian conductor Prof. Johannes Meissl on 14th of July. On the 25th and 26h of May we combined the celebration of 150 Years’ of Friendship with the 150 years’ Jubilee of the Vienna State Opera by live stream screening of operas from the Vienna State Opera at Bangkok Screening Room. It was a little bit “opera in your living room” with the genuine atmosphere of sparkling wine during the intermission. Our major concerts had a tremendous number of followers with full houses at every event. A number of smaller concerts under the “New Austrian Sound of Music Programme” are organised throughout the year and staged mostly at the multi-functional hall of our new holistic Austrian Embassy building in Sathorn.

 

This building was inaugurated in 2018 as a flagship project of Austrian innovation and design, combined with Thai building materials and ancient building wisdom. “The New Austrian Sound of Music Programme”  is a long-term sponsorship programme to promote and support international performances of promising and award-winning young Austrian musicians who are exceptionally gifted but not so well known on the global stage yet. A jazz ensemble that had been invited by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs under this programme, also performed at the Hua Hin Jazz festival this year. Apart from music, we offered two important exhibitions of the city of Vienna, on architecture as well as the “smart city concept”, at the annual fair of the Association of Siamese Architects at Impact Arena early May, and a photo-exhibition about schooling opportunities for migrant and hill-tribe children at a charity event at BACC Bangkok and in Chiang May, on 1st and 3rd of March. Film-screenings, wine-and food-tastings, and a forum on student mobility toward the end of the year, as well as an Open House Day to the Embassy and the Residence, are also part of the programme. We also had a classical Austrian children’s book “The grandmother in the apple-tree” (Mira Lobe, drawings of Susi Weigel) translated into Thai and distributed it on various occasions to children’s projects, inter alia the UNICEF-mobile library in the province of Loei.

 

Full Story: https://expatlifeinthailand.com/featured/h-e-dr-eva-hager-the-austrian-ambassador-to-thailand/

 

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-- © Copyright Expat Life in Thailand

 

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Phew, that was a lot to read. Did it mention Mr Mozart?

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Very interesting... Got it. NWO HQ. Just a subtle hint Thailand, you're expected to join or be conquered. 

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