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Interview to the Trade Consul of Austria - Pietro Stroppa
Focus on Europe

28 December 2007

Interview to the Trade Consul of Austria - Pietro Stroppa

We interviewed the Trade Consul Dr. Michael Pötscher, who took off time to answer a few questions:

In terms of its economic situation, how is Austria placed within the European context?
“Becoming a member of the EU was of fundamental importance and Austria is, possibly the country which has benefited most strongly from the opening of its borders towards the east because it resulted in a sort of small globalization that brought us a number of advantages. We are positioned on the fringes of Europe and, all of a sudden, we found ourselves in the midst of an extremely dynamic centre which brought us a number of economic advantages with ensuing positive results. Initially, in the ‘80’s and the ‘90’s, we didn’t think that things would turn out this well and there was a lot of apprehension about the future because, all of a sudden, we found ourselves having to match our strength against countries in which labour cost one tenth of ours, meaning that it was impossible to compete.
There were two different schools of thought: on the one hand, our retailers wanted to grasp the opportunity offered by these new markets where everything cost less meaning that they imported large amounts of goods and, on the other, our entrepreneurs were extremely worried because they were incapable of competing with this type of competition.
Then things began to change and the industrialists began to transfer production to Eastern Europe. At present, the industries in Eastern Europe are bigger than those in Austria, even though marketing, administration and know-how have remained in our country. I will give you an example related to the woodworking sector. Our sawmills were small and local.
Now they are bigger and are investing in Russia, in the Czech Republic and in Germany. This evolution has resulted in extremely positive economic results: Austria is in fifth place as regards GDP per capita, production, over the last ten years has increased by 2.2%. our debt has decreased and inflation is at 1.9%.”

What about future prospects?
“We are part of a peace project, i.e. that of the EU, and we have to be aware of everything that is going on in this context. Everyday we see a number of positive developments and if all the nations collaborate there is bound to be growth for all those involved because the market is now bigger and able to offer more opportunities.
Austria has accepted the challenge and will continue to do so. We are the largest investors in several Eastern European countries: we hold first place in Slovenia, second place in Slovakia and are among the five biggest investors the other Eastern European countries. As regards the woodworking sector, which is very important in Austria, I am very optimistic about 2007. I see a continuation of the 2006 development with more and more emphasis on globalization.”

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