- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2005

‘Bridge’ in Europe

Austria’s leading business executive promoted the unique position of his country as a “bridge between East and West” Europe when he visited Washington to explain Austria’s goals when it takes over the European Union on New Year’s Day.

“Our message is that we are in the middle of Europe, a bridge between East and West,” said Veit Sorger, president of the Federation of Austrian Industry.

In talks last week with Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick and other officials, Mr. Sorger said Austria wants to see the European Union expanded to include Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. He also said he is trying to promote more foreign investment in Eastern Europe.

“We are working hard to move the entrepreneurial spirit forward,” he said.



He cited Austria as an example of economic success in Europe, claiming an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent and a growth rate of 2 percent. The jobless rate in France is more than 10 percent, while the EU average is about 8 percent.

Part of Austria’s success is a low corporate tax rate of 25 percent and a cooperative relationship between unions and management.

“Our unions are strong, but they understand the economy,” he said. “One of the successes is the ‘social partnership’ between unions and industry. That means the ability to talk, to discuss, to negotiate.”

‘Criminal regime’

North Korea was enraged by comments from the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, who called the Stalinist government a “criminal regime.”

Alexander Vershbow made the comments last week at a forum in Seoul, where he said the United States will maintain its sanctions against North Korea until the government stops illegal dealings in arms and drugs.

“This is a criminal regime,” he said.

The reaction was fierce.

His comments are “provocative declarations of war,” and North Korea “will mercilessly retaliate,” an unidentified government spokesman told the official Korean Central News Agency.

“What he uttered is an intolerable provocation and insult to the political system [of North Korea] and a very serious development that fundamentally overturned the spirit of the joint statement adopted at the fourth round of six-party talks,” he said.

The talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, Japan and China are aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear-weapons program.

Although the bombast from North Korea was expected, Mr. Vershbow also received criticism from South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, who called the comments unhelpful. Mr. Ban also said he hopes to coax North Korea to re-enter the talks by mid-January.

Diplomatic son

Romanian Ambassador Sorin Ducaru got an early Christmas present with the birth of his first son, a “strong, young man of 8.13 pounds and 21 inches.”

The baby, named Matei-Nicolae, was born Dec. 5, and his mother, Carmen, is doing fine, Mr. Ducaru told Embassy Row.

“The beginning of this year’s holiday season has blessed us with a very special gift from God,” he said.

The ambassador said Matei-Nicolae’s 2-year-old sister, Maria-Teodora, who also was born in Washington, greeted her new brother “with an inquisitive glance.”

She “then sent him one of her irresistible kisses, accepting diplomatically that Mommy will from now on share her hugs between Maria and her little brother,” Mr. Ducaru said.

The birth was officially anticipated at the highest levels of American diplomacy, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice swore in Nicholas Taubman as the U.S. ambassador to Romania last month.

Miss Rice sent her prenatal congratulations at the swearing-in, which Mr. Ducaru attended with his very pregnant wife Nov. 29.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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