Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

1.1.4 Europe


Australia needs to work hard to ensure our voice is heard in Europe on key trade and security issues which affect our interests.

As a bloc, the European Union (EU) is Australia’s second largest trade partner and largest source of foreign direct investment. Europe is the hub of NATO decision-making including for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) deployment to Afghanistan.

In 2010–11, the department secured systemic improvements in how Australia engages with European institutions and added depth to key bilateral relationships.

We worked to establish a stronger framework for Australian cooperation with new institutions established by the EU’s 2009 Lisbon Treaty.

As part of a whole-of-government effort, we ensured full consultation with NATO
in NATO-led operations to which Australia contributes.

We deepened our cooperation with European countries in contributing to international responses to the political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa. We also broadened our collaboration in international economic forums, such as the G20, during France’s 2011 Presidency.

Working closely with Austrade and Australian industry, the department advanced our bilateral trade and investment relationships with Europe. The Australian High Commission in London and embassies in Europe managed a large number of visits by Australian ministers, parliamentarians and senior officials.


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.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

European Union

Photo - See caption below for description
Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) in Sydney on 18 January 2011.
L-R: UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr William Hague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, the Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, UK Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox.
Photo: Auspic

The department strengthened relations with the EU in 2010–11.

We provided policy advice and logistical support for Mr Rudd’s inaugural attendance at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hungary in June 2011. This participation enabled Australia to increase our contact with partners from 45 Asian and European countries, build closer bilateral ties, and coordinate responses on
global challenges.

The department underpinned the Prime Minister’s proposal to develop a treaty-level Framework Agreement by leading an inter-agency process with the EU. The Prime Minister raised the proposal with EU counterparts during her visit to Brussels in October 2010. Subsequently, the department led several rounds of exploratory talks with EU officials and we expect member states will agree to negotiations commencing in the second half of 2011. The proposed agreement would consolidate the achievements of the sub-treaty Australia–European Union Partnership Framework. It would also provide a strengthened framework for broad-based cooperation with new institutions established by the EU’s 2009 Lisbon Treaty.

We helped organise the Prime Minister’s participation in the ASEM Summit in Brussels in October 2010 where Australia was formally admitted into the ASEM process.

The department supported Dr Emerson in pursuing bilateral trade and regulatory issues, including through a Ministerial Meeting on Trade with European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in Sydney in March 2011. The department led the Australian delegation to the seventh Australia–European Union Trade Policy Dialogue with senior officials in Brussels in June 2011. We supported efforts to raise the importance of continuing our cooperation in the WTO and G20.

The department provided assistance to Mr Rudd in engaging the EU—particularly the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and the European External Action Service—on global challenges, such as the political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as on support for Pakistan. With AusAID, we continued to pursue arrangements for delegated aid delivery with the EU, aimed at improving aid outcomes in the Pacific and Africa.

To improve border security, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the department led successful multi-agency negotiations with the EU on revising the Passenger Name Record agreement. The department worked with other agencies to bring a Security of Information Agreement into force and negotiated a new agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

We have stepped up our links with the European Parliament in light of the increased powers it has acquired under the Lisbon Treaty in areas of interest to Australia. In February 2011, Australia hosted an official visit from the European Parliament. The department supported visits to the European Parliament by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Jenkins, and the President of the Senate, Senator Hogg.

We supported a senior-level European Australian Business Council (EABC) visit to Strasbourg, Berlin and Stockholm in June 2011, which also contributed to our engagement with the European Parliament and helped deepen ties between business communities.

European security

Australia secured a commitment from NATO to formalise a role for partners in shaping decisions in NATO-led operations to which they contribute. We supported Mr Rudd’s attendance at the NATO foreign ministers April 2011 meeting in Berlin where these arrangements were finalised. This commitment is a direct result of sustained advocacy by the Australian Government. Australia’s Ambassador in Brussels clearly set out Australia’s position when addressing the North Atlantic Council in September 2010. As NATO’s Review progressed, the embassy liaised closely with Alliance members and NATO itself to address concerns and build consensus. The outcome ensures an Australian role in determining strategy when our soldiers are at risk. NATO’s new partnerships policy includes this principle, not just for Afghanistan but for any future missions.

The department supported Mr Rudd’s attendance at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Summit (OSCE) in December 2010, the first ministerial engagement since Australia joined as an Asian Partner in 2009. The organisation provides a useful forum for developing security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region. Through AusAID, with the assistance of the department, Australia supports the OSCE’s efforts to promote human rights and fight human trafficking and money laundering.

Europe—bilateral relationships

Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, holds a press conference with the Member of the European Commission in charge of Trade, Mr Karel De Gucht, during the latter’s visit to Australia in March 2011.
Photo: Copyright European Union, 2011

The department expanded Australia’s close relationships with European countries which have a strong global presence. We have cooperated in developing like-minded approaches to global issues, including on international responses to the political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.

At the third bilateral Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) with the United Kingdom (UK), held in January 2011 in Sydney, the department helped develop a substantive joint work-plan, which was agreed by the Foreign and Defence Ministers and their UK counterparts. This plan covers traditional areas of engagement and new issues, such as cyber security. The department worked to develop the close and productive relationship we enjoy with the UK on foreign policy, security and economic issues.

The department provided guidance on visits to and from Germany, including a visit in May-June 2011 by German Foreign Minister Dr Guido Westerwelle, only the third visit to Australia by a serving German Foreign Minister. The Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, Mr Rudd and Dr Westerwelle signed a Joint Declaration on Resources and Energy Cooperation, which the department helped negotiate. The declaration will enhance dialogue and research and investment in the resources sector. We provided logistical assistance to Mr Rudd and Dr Westerwelle when they opened CeBIT Australia 2011, the largest ICT industry event in the Asia-Pacific, for which Germany was the official Partner Country.

A number of official visits to France were supported by the department, including the July 2010 visit of the Governor-General for the inauguration of the new Commonwealth War Graves Commission Military Cemetery at Fromelles (Pheasant Wood). Our embassy provided logistical assistance for ministers attending meetings on France’s G20 Presidency in 2011, and at the OECD. During Mr Rudd’s visit for Anzac Day commemorations in northern France in April 2011, he met the newly-appointed French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé. The department had negotiated a declaration of intent on counter-terrorism, which the foreign ministers signed, and Mr Rudd discussed the G20 agenda with the then Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde. The department also facilitated bilateral political-military talks which were held in Canberra in May 2011.

Photo - See caption below for description
Australian Ambassador to Moscow, Ms Margaret Twomey (right), and Senior Trade Commissioner, Mr Dan Tebbutt (centre), lead an agriculture mission to the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, in March 2011.

Engagement with the Russian Federation continues to deepen. The Australia–Russia Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which the department negotiated, entered into force in November 2010. A memorandum of understanding on administrative arrangements to implement this agreement was signed in June 2011. The department worked with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to support trade talks co-chaired by Dr Emerson and the Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, Dr Elena Skrynnik, in Sydney in March 2011. Cooperation between Russia and Australia in the Asia-Pacific took a significant step forward with Australian support helping secure Russia’s membership of the East Asia Summit.

The department increased cooperation with Turkey on humanitarian, political and consular issues, including during the evacuation from Libya and the joint delivery of relief aid for Libya and Syria, and policy coordination as major contributors to ISAF. The department facilitated a visit to Turkey by Mr Rudd to meet key leaders, where he signed a cooperation plan with Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, which the department negotiated. It includes a strategic dialogue between the department and the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

The department supported visits by the Governor-General to Spain and Italy. With Spain, the department also facilitated the rapidly expanding commercial relationship, including in the field of defence matériel, which saw the ceremonial launch of the first Australian helicopter landing dock built in Spain.

In October 2010 the department facilitated Mr Rudd’s visit to Italy where he and Italian Foreign Minister Frattini committed to initiatives to strengthen the bilateral relationship including through annual ministerial meetings. We supported a visit to Greece by Mr Rudd in February 2011, which enabled consultation on regional developments in the Middle East and Balkans, as well as reaffirming Australian support for the Cyprus settlement negotiations.

The department facilitated the February 2011 visit by Austrian Foreign Minister, Dr Michael Spindelegger, and a business delegation. The visit highlighted Australia as an investment destination and was significant as the first such visit to Australia by an Austrian Foreign Minister.

Mr Rudd visited Finland in May 2011 with the department’s assistance to press for improved implementation of sustainable development principles at the UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. His May 2011 visit to Sweden encompassed support for climate change research and work promoting democracy. Working with others, the department has supported the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and will chair the institute from December 2011. We worked with AusAID to provide advice on facilitating closer cooperation in aid delivery with Norway, building on both countries’ contribution to forest preservation in Indonesia. Mr Rudd pursued this during his visit to Norway in May 2011.

The department focused on ensuring the smooth transfer of responsibility in Uruzgan, Afghanistan, from the Netherlands to Combined Team Uruzgan. We co-hosted with the Netherlands, the Rare Earths, Europe and Australia conference, to tap into strategic raw materials policy developments.

The department advanced Australia’s engagement at senior levels with the Holy See. We facilitated Mr Rudd’s attendance at the canonisation in October 2010 of Australia’s first Saint—Saint Mary of the Cross (Mary MacKillop), at which time he also opened the new chancery of the Australian embassy to the Holy See. Mr Rudd was accompanied by a bipartisan delegation of Australian parliamentarians.

The department was a key contributor to visits by the President of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, and President of Malta, Dr George Abela. We supported Mr Rudd’s hosting of Bosnia and Herzegovinan Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj, the first such visit to Australia.

With Poland, the department hosted a visit by the President of the Warsaw-based think-tank demosEUROPA–Centre for European Strategy, Paweł Šwieboda, in the lead up to Poland’s Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2011.

The department and Austrade strengthened trade, education and research links with Switzerland, including by supporting a Swiss chapter of the Swiss Australian Academic Network.


  Exports Exports   Imports(b) Imports(b)  
Goods and services 2009 2010 Trend growth
2009 2010 Trend growth
  $m $m % $m $m %
United Kingdom 13,249 12,386 5.6 11,064 10,255 0.9
Netherlands 2,486 3,088 0.4 2,558 2,568 7.6
Germany 2,644 2,865 5.4 11,712 11,964 4.4
Italy 1,344 1,460 -6.1 5,693 5,864 3.9
France 1,906 1,843 2.9 4,935 4,856 -1.7
Total European Union 27 26,084 27,040 2.0 51,201 50,966 2.9
Russian Federation 694 966 15.0 436 453 33.2
Other Europe 2,337 2,557 6.6 6,406 6,241 10.5
Total Europe 29,115 30,563 2.6 58,043 57,660 3.8

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
(b) Imports total excludes imports of ABS confidential items (mainly aircraft).
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

Australia and Portugal continued to work together to support East Timor, a point reaffirmed when the Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Mr Smith, met Prime Minister Coelho and Defence Minister Augusto Silva in Lisbon in November 2010.

To advance Australia’s relations with Liechtenstein, the department, working with the Australian Taxation Office, helped negotiate a bilateral Taxation Information Exchange Agreement, which was signed in June 2011. This followed Mr Rudd’s visit in February 2011, the first by an Australian minister. The agreement, which is the first treaty between the two countries, will enhance transparency on taxation issues and help prevent tax evasion.

Australia’s relations with European countries are underpinned by the large numbers of Australians with European origins. In 2010–11, the department worked with other agencies to conclude Social Security agreements with Hungary and Slovakia, which Mr Rudd signed, to make retirement easier for residents of both countries. We helped the Department of Infrastructure and Transport negotiate Air Services Agreement with the Czech Republic. It will provide opportunities for increased trade and commercial links.

Personal Profile:

Photo - See caption below for description
Deciana Speckman

Deciana Speckman

As an executive officer in Europe Division, Deciana promotes Australia’s foreign policy, political and economic priorities in southern Europe. She has pursued Australia’s support for the United Nations’ facilitated settlement negotiations in Cyprus, worked on the repatriation of Indigenous human remains, and been involved in Australia’s cooperation with Italy on G20 issues.

Two months into her job, Deciana coordinated a comprehensive briefing for the Governor-General’s participation in Italy’s 150th anniversary celebrations while negotiating a joint statement by Prime Minister Gillard and Cypriot President Christofias during the latter’s visit to Australia.

Deciana joined the department’s Europe Division as a lateral transferee in March 2011. Previously, Deciana worked as a locally engaged policy officer at the Netherlands Embassy in Canberra while completing her Masters degree in international law. In Asia, she worked as an AusAID volunteer in Bangkok, coordinating a media program for a Muslim NGO.

“My work experience overseas and in Australia proved excellent preparation for my role in the Europe Division. Working for the division at a time when Australia and Europe are taking their relationship to a new level is an engaging and rewarding experience.”


Australia does not enjoy automatic access to decision-making processes in Europe. While 2010–11 has delivered marked progress, Australia needs sustained advocacy and engagement to ensure that our profile and influence in Europe is commensurate with our significant trade and security interests.

Australia will work hard to maintain its profile and access with the leadership of the EU, particularly given Europe’s immediate focus on the debt crisis and developments in Europe’s neighbourhood. The department will encourage and support high-level visits to Australia by EU leaders. The department plans to lead negotiations for a treaty-level Australia–European Union Framework Agreement, if the EU agrees on a negotiating mandate.

The department will work to strengthen further Australia’s close linkages with European countries, both bilaterally and in international forums, including NATO, OSCE, G20, WTO, and ASEM. At the same time, we will continue to seek changes to measures which adversely affect Australia’s interests, such as air taxes levied by Austria, Germany and the UK.

The department will broaden ties with non-EU members, including through developing trade and investment, and work closely with Russia before and during Russia’s hosting of APEC in 2012.

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