Annual Report 2006-2007

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > 1.1.4 Europe

OUTPUT 1.1: Protection and advocacy of Australia's international interests through the provision of policy advice to ministers and overseas diplomatic activity

1.1.4 Europe

On this page: Overview :: European Union :: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) :: Europe—bilateral relationships :: Outlook


The department worked to promote cooperation and to strengthen Australia’s extensive economic, strategic and people-to-people links with Europe. We created Europe Division as a stand-alone entity to improve our delivery of key policy and advocacy functions. We also established a dedicated European Trade section to further develop Australia’s trading relationship with Europe. We secured agreement with the European Commission (EC) to launch a revised framework for Australia’s bilateral relationship with the European Union (EU).

The department supported numerous high-level visits in both directions and negotiated a number of agreements with European countries in support of Australia’s broader economic and policy interests. We continued to expand our dialogue with new EU member states in support of Australian foreign policy and trade objectives on counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, agricultural reform and our shared interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. We maintained momentum in Australia’s growing trade relationship with Russia, including by progressing negotiations on bilateral agreements on agricultural cooperation and investment and commencing negotiations on a nuclear cooperation agreement.

The department deepened Australia’s security links with Europe, with cooperation focused on meeting the security challenges facing the Asia-Pacific region. Mr Downer signed a memorandum of understanding with German Minister for Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, establishing a framework for Australia and Germany to cooperate on a range of environmental and development initiatives in the Asia-Pacific. We received increased support from a number of European countries for the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC), a regional training facility to combat terrorism and other transnational crimes.

The department played a key role in enhancing Australia’s relationship with NATO—particularly through its work on Australia’s deployment to Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). We shaped positive outcomes for Australia at NATO’s Riga Summit in November 2006, during which NATO invited Australia to develop a framework for enhanced cooperation and training.

We have supported efforts to repatriate Australian Indigenous remains from a number of European institutions, which resulted in returns from the United Kingdom and Sweden and significant progress elsewhere.

European Union

Photo - See caption below for description
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, and European Commissioner for External Relations, Dr Benita Ferrero-Waldner, launching the development of a new partnership framework on future cooperation between Australia and the European Union, in Canberra on 25 June 2007. Photo: Michael Jensen
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department supported the work of ministers in strengthening Australia’s relationship with the European Union (EU). Mr Downer hosted the twenty-first Australia–European Commission Ministerial Consultations in Canberra on 25 June 2007 with the EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The meeting resulted in a Joint Ministerial Statement announcing agreement to launch a new framework for the bilateral relationship, to be concluded by mid-2008, which will revise and update the 1997 Australia–EU Joint Declaration and the subsequent 2003–08 Agenda for Cooperation.

Mr Downer and Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner launched a jointly-sponsored Youth Interfaith Forum (to be hosted by Australia in the second half of 2007), designed to bring together young leaders of the diverse religious communities in South-East Asia, Australia and Europe. They agreed to establish a regular forum at officials’ level on energy security and climate change, building on existing links in these areas.

The department advanced, under the Australia–EU Agenda for Cooperation, a number of key bilateral initiatives. Of particular note was the signature in February 2007 of the Australia–Europol Agreement on Operational and Strategic Co-operation. The Agreement will enhance Australia’s capacity to combat serious transnational crime and terrorism through the sharing of information between the Australian Federal Police and Europol. Reflecting increasing collaboration between Australia and the EU on development cooperation matters in the Pacific, the department supported the conclusion in May 2007 of an Australia–European Investment Bank Host-Country Arrangement memorandum of understanding, establishing the Bank’s Pacific regional headquarters in Sydney.

The department supported a Guest-of-Government visit to Australia by EU Education Commissioner Ján Figel in April 2007, during which he and the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop, signed a Joint Declaration to reinforce bilateral education cooperation.

The EU remains Australia’s largest overall trade and investment partner. We continued to work to encourage stronger Australian business engagement in the EU. We supported a visit by the European Australian Business Council to Brussels from 29–30 June 2007 during which members met senior European Commission officials, including EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. The visit highlighted potential new trade and investment opportunities. Our advocacy efforts were instrumental in reducing the impact on Australian interests of some EU regulatory initiatives. In particular, we collaborated successfully with Australian business to introduce a number of changes to the EU’s new Registration Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation, ahead of its December 2006 approval by the EU Council.

We continued to advocate the need for further reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), including through an Australian Government Submission to the UK House of Lords European Union Committee inquiry on the future of the CAP.

The department, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, was involved in negotiations with the EU which led to progress towards resolving a number of technical trade issues impeding Australian exports to Europe, including meat certification, wild-caught sea prawns and bovine semen.

FIGURE 11. Australia’s trade in goods and services WITH the European Union(a)

FIGURE 11. Australia’s trade in goods and services WITH the European Union

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Source: DFAT STARS database and ABS Catalogue 5368.0.

We worked closely with DAFF to achieve the finalisation of the text of the revised Australia–EU Wine Agreement, which was initialled on 5 June 2007. The revised agreement will provide benefits for both Australian and European wine producers, including recognition by the EU of Australian wine-making practices, and simplified labelling provisions. Australian annual wine exports to the EU are currently worth $1.3 billion.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

The department worked closely with the Department of Defence to advance practical cooperation with NATO, building upon our force contribution to Afghanistan as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In September 2006, Mr Downer addressed the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, NATO’s peak decision-making body, and met the NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Mr Downer’s address reaffirmed the strength of Australia–NATO relations and our shared role in promoting a more stable global security environment.

In cooperation with a range of Australian agencies, the department led the third round of the Australia–NATO Strategic Dialogue held in October 2006 which focused on developing closer cooperation on global security issues, including in relation to Australia’s deployment in Afghanistan. The Australian delegation advocated Australia’s interest in focusing any expanded cooperation with NATO on practical areas of mutual benefit. This contributed to the NATO Riga Summit’s decision to open NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) activities to Australia as a NATO Contact Country. Mr Downer’s address to the Munich Security Conference in February 2007 welcomed NATO’s Riga Summit decision and outlined Australia’s agreement to participate in NATO activities. The decision provides a framework for greater coordination and cooperation with NATO on training and knowledge exchange.

Europe—bilateral relationships

The department advanced Australia’s security and economic links with the United Kingdom. In London in December 2006, we supported the inaugural meeting of the Australia–United Kingdom Ministerial Dialogue (AUKMIN) between Mr Downer and Dr Nelson and their British counterparts, the then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Margaret Beckett, and Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, and senior officials from both countries. AUKMIN, and other officials’-level talks throughout the year, provide an opportunity to share perspectives on a range of strategic issues and to strengthen our collaboration in responding to global security challenges.

The department, working with agencies such as Austrade and Invest Australia, successfully assisted new exporters in the UK market, promoted investment in Australia and advanced Australia’s broader economic interests in the United Kingdom. We supported the UK–Australia Energy Seminar in February 2007 which provided a valuable opportunity for the two countries to develop a collaborative approach to global energy issues and technology development.

We supported other visits to the United Kingdom by Mr Downer, the Treasurer, Peter Costello, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ian Macfarlane, and the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Eric Abetz. These, and a large number of other high-level visits in both directions, reflected the depth of our engagement with the United Kingdom across the social and economic policy agendas.

The department worked to increase the diversity and depth of links between Australia and France. We supported Mr Truss’s visit to France in May 2007 to advance Australia’s bilateral and multilateral trade interests, including his meeting with the Australian Business in Europe Chairman’s Club and attendance at the 2007 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM). In conjunction with the Department of Defence we also supported a visit by Dr Nelson in December 2006, during which he signed a new agreement on defence cooperation, which provides a framework for increased collaboration, including on material and capacity planning.

Photo - See caption below for description
The then French Trade Minister, Ms Christine Lagarde (centre), and Australian Ambassador Ms Penny Wensley AO accompanied by business leaders at the launch in Paris of a new bilateral business group, the Chairman’s Club—within the Australian Business in Europe (ABIE) network, February 2007. Photo: Alastair Miller
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department supported visits by then French Minister of Trade, Christine Lagarde and then Minister of Agriculture, Dominique Bussereau, which focused on new areas of collaboration, including in the sheep industry. We signed a Cooperative Fisheries Enforcement Treaty in January 2007 to promote greater practical cooperation in the Southern Ocean. The practical value of Australia and France’s close cooperation in the Pacific was demonstrated through coordinated action to provide relief to Solomon Islands following the tsunami in January 2007.

The department worked to increase bilateral commercial links through the establishment of the Australian Business in Europe (ABIE) Chairman’s Club in Paris. The Chairman’s Club, composed of senior executives from major Australian and French multinationals, provides valuable opportunities to promote closer trade and investment opportunities between the two countries.

We supported a visit to Germany by Mr Downer in February 2007 during the German Presidency of the EU and G8 Chairmanship. He held formal discussions with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung and Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul on ways to advance bilateral cooperation on global and regional issues. Mr Downer signed a memorandum of understanding on development with the German Development Minister that provides for closer cooperation with Germany on projects in the Asia-Pacific. Suggested initiatives include measures on combating HIV/AIDS in the region and reforestation in Indonesia. Mr Downer also signed a revised social security agreement and an enhanced working holiday maker arrangement and delivered a speech entitled ‘NATO in the Age of Global Challenges’ at the Munich Security Policy Conference.

The department also supported the visit to Melbourne by German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück for the G20 Conference in November 2006. We secured strengthened German commitment for our regional counter-terrorism objectives, including increased support for the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation.

Our relations with the Netherlands continued to deepen. The department supported the Australian Defence Force’s deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Dutch-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Oruzgan province. Cooperation in Afghanistan was also the focus of visits by the Minister for Defence, Chief of the Defence Force and Secretary of the Department of Defence to the Netherlands in December 2006, and a major theme of the Governor-General’s visit in September 2006.

The department supported greater cooperation on higher education and the signing of a major research partnership between the Australian National University and Leiden University focusing on South-East Asia. We also assisted in major visits to Australia from the Netherlands, including by the Crown Prince and Princess, marking the successful conclusion of celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Dutch–Australian contact.

The department built on the successful visit to Ireland of the Prime Minister Mr Howard in May 2006 in which he met his Irish counterpart, Mr Bertie Ahern, the Irish President, Mrs Mary McAleese, and addressed the Irish Parliament. The visit provided a valuable opportunity to build on the historically close and increasingly dynamic relationship between Australia and Ireland, and to further pursue our mutual interests in expanding trade and investment, people to people links and practical cooperation in areas such as research and development, information technology and education. We signed a memorandum of understanding on social security with Switzerland during the visit of the Swiss Minister of Home Affairs, Pascal Couchepin, in October 2006. We supported negotiations that led to the signing of a reciprocal health care agreement with Belgium.

The department supported Mr Downer’s visit to Italy in September 2006. The visit strengthened high-level political dialogue, including in relation to our joint commitment in Afghanistan and our common interests in the Asia-Pacific region. We facilitated a memorandum of understanding on sports cooperation between the Australian Sports Commission and the Italian Government. The department worked with other agencies to lift Australia’s profile in Italy—we secured Australian participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale, after a long absence, and supported the ‘Melbourne in Milan’ week of activities in Milan showcasing Australian talent and design capabilities. The department supported visits to Italian regions by several state premiers, in line with our interest in developing state-to-region links.

Goods and services (a)
United Kingdom
Total European Union
Russian Federation
Other Europe
Total Europe

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Source: DFAT STARS database and ABS Catalogue 5368.0.

Australian parliamentary delegations visited Spain and Malta in April 2007 with departmental support. We continued our regular officials’-level dialogue by holding ad hoc senior officials’ talks with Spain in November 2006. The talks resulted in agreement to strengthen cooperation on combating illegal fishing activities in Australia’s southern exclusive economic zone and to consider negotiating a working holiday arrangement. We also persuaded Spanish authorities to agree to fast-track visa processing for Australian defence personnel engaged in defence projects in Spain.

We supported Mr Downer’s visit to Turkey in February 2007 which contributed strongly to the bilateral relationship and enhanced cooperation on Anzac Cove issues. During the visit, Australia and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding on counter-terrorism and organised crime. The document provides a framework for cooperation between Australian and Turkish agencies in areas such as law enforcement, mutual legal assistance, anti-terrorist financing, border and transport security, defence, intelligence and countering chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism. Working with Turkish authorities, the department provided extensive support for the evacuation of Australian nationals from Lebanon via Turkey during the Lebanon crisis in July and August 2006. In partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, we secured Turkish Government agreement to a new veterinary health certificate, which has paved the way for a resumption of trade in live cattle after eleven years.

The department’s close cooperation with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Turkish and New Zealand governments again resulted in a highly successful Anzac Day commemoration on the Gallipoli peninsula. Careful contingency planning and preparations well ahead of the event resulted in a secure and safe environment for Australians attending the commemorations. In 2007, about 8000 Australians, including Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, attended the services at Anzac Cove and Lone Pine.

Together with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, we supported the visit of the Prime Minister of Greece, Kostas Karamanlis, and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in May 2007. A key outcome of the visit was the signature of a social security agreement between Australia and Greece, which represents an important step forward in the bilateral relationship. The agreement will improve access to age and retirement benefits for an estimated 50 000 people in both countries.

We continued to support constructive efforts aimed at resolving the Cyprus dispute, in particular through the efforts of Australia’s Special Envoy on Cyprus matters, the Hon Jim Short, and our support for the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations on the divided island.

The fourth round of senior officials’ talks with Poland in October 2006 progressed a number of bilateral issues, including in relation to work and holiday maker visas and identified the need for continuing cooperation on Iraq and Afghanistan. Subsequent bilateral consultations with Poland on non-proliferation and disarmament issues were held in March 2007, with a renewed commitment by both countries to advance the Proliferation Security Initiative. We supported reciprocal visits by Australian and Polish parliamentarians, which focused on commercial opportunities, particularly in the health and health insurance sectors. We also worked with the Department of Education, Science and Training to address a decline in the number of Polish students studying in Australia.

The department supported the visit to Hungary by a delegation attending commemorations for the anniversary of the 1956 Uprising, which was led by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. We worked closely with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to advance a working holiday maker arrangement with the Czech Republic and to resolve successfully Czech and Polish concerns over Australia’s short-term visitor visa system. The department facilitated visits to Poland, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic by the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in April 2007 to commence negotiations on bilateral social security agreements.

The department facilitated Mr Downer’s visit to Finland in September 2006 for EU Presidency consultations. A visit to Australia by Finnish President Tarja Halonen in February 2007 developed a framework for closer cooperation between Australian and Finnish scientists in the areas of innovation, biotechnology and geological surveying. The department also supported a visit to Australia by a Latvian parliamentary delegation in August 2006. Senior officials’ talks with Sweden, Denmark and Norway highlighted the broad level of cooperation between Australia and Scandinavian countries, particularly on education exchanges, global security, NATO–Australia relations and Afghanistan. We advocated strongly Australia’s positions on the Doha Round, agricultural reform, climate change, European engagement in the Asia-Pacific and, in the case of Norway, whaling. The department supported successful negotiations of double taxation agreements with Norway and Finland and advocated the reopening of a Danish embassy in Canberra (scheduled for September 2007). The department supported a visit to Sweden by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Greg Hunt, to attend the Midnight Sun Conference on Climate Change.

The department’s bilateral engagement with Russia focused on building cooperation in advance of President Vladimir Putin’s September 2007 visit. The department intensified government-to-government dialogue with Russia, holding a senior officials’ meeting focusing on international strategic and security issues in Canberra in April 2007. The meeting also enabled both sides to progress a number of issues related to President Putin’s scheduled visit. We commenced negotiations on a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement to allow Australian uranium producers to supply Russia’s nuclear power industry. We contributed to continuing negotiations on bilateral agreements covering investment protection and promotion, and veterinary cooperation. Political and trade linkages were strengthened through an exchange of visits by Australian and Russian parliamentary delegations in January and May 2007 respectively.


In the year ahead, the department will seek to redefine the future direction of Australia’s bilateral relationship with the European Union, following the June 2007 Joint Ministerial Statement announcing that both sides will launch a new key partnership framework document for bilateral cooperation in 2008. Key areas of focus will be: a comprehensive approach to promoting global security; a commitment to the multilateral trading system; expanded bilateral trade and investment; strengthened coordination in the Asia-Pacific region; recognition of the increased global focus on the environment and energy; and an expansion of our cooperation in science, technology, education and training.

The next AUKMIN is scheduled to be held in Australia in 2008. We will seek further collaboration with the United Kingdom on counter-proliferation and information sharing on counter-terrorism, as well as coordination of our respective military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We will continue to consolidate Australia’s cooperation with NATO through Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan and within the framework of NATO Partnership for Peace activities.

The department will work to strengthen Australia’s extensive economic links with Europe, providing assistance for Australian companies operating there and supporting specific events, such as the planned Australian German Business Conference, the Australia–United Kingdom Leadership Forum and joint trade and economic talks with Turkey and Russia. We will continue to support the activities of Austrade, Invest Australia and other Australian agencies seeking to advance our broader economic interests in Europe. We will look to capitalise on the award of two major defence contracts worth $11 billion to Spanish company Navantia by identifying new opportunities for increasing Australian trade and investment in Spain.

In close cooperation with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the department will support a number of major activities commemorating the 90th Anniversary of Australia’s involvement in significant Western Front battles that brought World War I to an end. The activities are expected to attract large numbers of Australian visitors.

The department is working with Australian government agencies and the Catholic Church’s organisers for World Youth Day which will take place in Sydney in July 2008. The event coincides with a visit by Pope Benedict XVI and is expected to involve up to 500 000 participants.

Relations with Russia will command greater focus following President Putin’s visit in September 2007 and ahead of Duma (parliamentary) elections in December 2007 and Presidential elections in March 2008. We will continue to work closely with other agencies to conclude negotiations on a range of bilateral agreements.

The department will continue to advocate Australian approaches to Europe on energy and environment issues, particularly climate change and energy security. We will also seek opportunities to cooperate on energy and energy efficient technologies.

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