Current State of Relations between NATO and Austria

Published: October 16, 2015; 17:00 · (FriedlNews)

NATO-Austria relations are conducted through the Partnership for Peace framework, which Austria joined in 1995. NATO and Austria actively cooperate in peace support operations, and have developed practical cooperation in a range of areas. NATO views Austria as an effective partner and contributor to international security, which shares key values such as the promotion of international security, democracy and human rights. Austria on the other hand selects areas of practical cooperation with NATO that match joint objectives.

What are Austria's Current Relations with NATO? / Picture: © NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization

An important area of cooperation is the country’s support for NATO-led operations. Austria has worked alongside the Allies in security and peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and currently has personnel deployed in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Framework for cooperation

NATO and Austria detail areas of cooperation and timelines in Austria’s Individual Partnership Programme (IPP) which is jointly agreed for a two-year period. Key areas include security and peacekeeping cooperation, humanitarian and disaster relief, and search and rescue operations. The IPP is soon to be replaced by an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP) in accordance with NATO’s new partnership policy.

Austria runs the Centre for Operations Preparation, a Partnership Training and Education Centre. It also leads the Balkans Regional Working Group in the framework of the PfP Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes (a voluntary association which works “in the spirit of PfP”, funded by Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the United States).

Key areas of cooperation

Security cooperation

In 1996, Austrian forces joined those of NATO Allies in securing the peace negotiated in the Dayton agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country contributed a battalion to the NATO-led peacekeeping forces there until 2001. Austria is currently contributing a mechanized company and support units to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR), amounting to over 400 troops. Austria took command of KFOR’s Multinational Task Force South (MNTF-S) in early 2008.

Austrian forces joined the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2002, providing expertise and logistical support. Throughout 2005, Austria deployed troops to work alongside the German-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kunduz province to provide security for the Afghan parliamentary elections.

Austria has made a number of units available for potential PfP operations. In each case, deployment must be authorized by the Austrian Council of Ministers and approved by the Main Committee of the Austrian Parliament.

Defence and security sector reform

Participating in peacekeeping and peace support operations alongside NATO Allies has reinforced Austria’s own process of military transformation. The PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) influences and reinforces Austrian planning activities. Through PARP, Austria has declared an increasing number of forces and capabilities as potentially available for NATO-led operations. Austria’s ability to take part in peace support operations is further enhanced by its participation in the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) process.

The Allies and other partners also benefit from Austrian expertise. The country is contributing to NATO’s programme of support for security-sector reform activities, with a special emphasis on the Balkan region.
Austria has contributed to Trust Fund projects in other Partner countries. Along with individual Allies and Partners, Austria has made contributions to voluntary trust funds to support, for example, the destruction of mines and/or munitions in Albania, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine.

Civil emergency planning

Civil emergency planning is a major area of cooperation. The aim is for Austria to be able to cooperate with NATO Allies in providing mutual support in dealing with the consequences of major accidents or disasters in the Euro-Atlantic area. This could include dealing with the consequences of incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents, as well as humanitarian disaster relief operations.

Science and environment

Under the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, scientists from Austria have participated in numerous advanced research workshops and seminars on a range of topics. Since 2005, Austrian personnel have participated in over 20 activities. Topics have included preparedness against bio-terrorism, strengthening influenza pandemic preparedness and emerging biological threats.

Public information

In every partner country an embassy of one of the NATO member states serves as a contact point and operates as a channel for disseminating information about the role and policies of the Alliance. The current NATO Contact Point Embassy in Austria is the embassy of Greece.

Evolution in milestones

1995     Austria signs the Partnership for Peace Framework Document.
1996     Austria joins the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP)
Austria deploys peacekeepers to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
1997     Austria opens a diplomatic mission at NATO Headquarters.        
1999     Austrian forces participate in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR.
2002     H.E. Dr Thomas Klestil, the President of Austria, meets NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson at NATO HQ on 3 July to exchange views on key issues in international security.
Austrian forces join the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
2004     During a visit to Vienna on 18 November, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer praised Austria for its contribution to NATO’s missions and Partnership for Peace programme.
2005     Austria has increased the units declared for NATO/PfP missions. In the future they will consist of a framework brigade.
2008     Austria takes command of KFOR’s Multinational Task Force South (MNTF-S).
2011     NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visits Vienna on 30 June 2011 and met President Heinz Fischer, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spindelegger and Minister of Defence Norbert Darabos. They discussed the partnership between NATO and Austria, the situation in the western Balkans and the NATO-led operations in Libya and Afghanistan. They also discussed Austria’s contribution to the NATO-led mission in Kosovo and for its role in the western Balkans and its commitment to the region.