1 December 1995

L/2747
ORG/1210


UNITED NATIONS SIGNS NEW `SEAT AGREEMENT' WITH AUSTRIA CONSOLIDATING NUMBER OF LEGAL AGREEMENTS BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND VIENNA-BASED UN OFFICES

19951201VIENNA, 29 November (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) and the Government of Austria today signed a new "Seat Agreement" which incorporates a number of innovations, and takes into account a number of changes that have taken place since the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) headquarters Agreement was signed in 1967.

The new Agreement -- and a parallel new headquarters Agreement signed today by UNIDO -- consolidates a large number of legal arrangements between the Austrian Government and Vienna-based United Nations offices covering such matters as the shared use of the Vienna International Centre and the status of United Nations staff members in Austria.

Under the Agreement, retired United Nations officials will now be exempt from Austrian immigration restrictions, thus eliminating difficulties experienced by former United Nations staff members wishing to settle in Austria. Another important change is the provision that spouses and dependent relatives of United Nations staff members will be permitted to seek work in Austria. Staff members and their dependants will also have access to universities and other educational institutions on the same terms as Austrian citizens.

A further innovation is a provision that whenever a staff member is arrested or detained by Austrian authorities, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna or UNIDO will be promptly informed and allowed to send an official to communicate with the detained person and provide whatever legal or medical assistance might be required. In the past, the Organization has occasionally learned of a staff member's arrest only through media reports.

Also, the Agreement incorporates Austria's offer to provide the United Nations with the use of meeting facilities at Austria's International Centre in Vienna free of charge.

The Agreement takes into account UNIDO's present status as a specialized United Nations agency which participates on an equal footing in the use of the Vienna International Centre facilities, which it shares with UNOV and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Until 1985, UNIDO had been part of the United Nations.

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Other issues clarified in the Agreement include the privileges and immunities of Vienna-based United Nations observer missions, intergovernmental organizations and observers for non-Member States. Through separate arrangements, the new Agreement will be applicable also to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and its staff in Austria.

Not covered in the new Agreement are social security matters, for which the United Nations and Austria will soon negotiate a new agreement.

The texts of the new Agreements were signed at a ceremony this morning at the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs by UNOV Director-General Giorgio Giacomelli, UNIDO Director-General Mauricio de Maria y Campos and Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel. Also attending the signing ceremony were former Foreign Minister Alois Mock, State Secretary Benita Ferrero-Waldner, City Councillor Hannes Swoboda and other senior officials from the Austrian Foreign Ministry, and from UNOV and UNIDO.

Statements Made

Following the signing of the Agreements, Mr. DE MARIA Y CAMPOS said the new Agreement came at a very timely moment for UNIDO, demonstrating the importance the Austrian Government attached to the organization. It also came at the conclusion of a critical reform process in the organization which was now ready for the year 2000, he stated.

Mr. GIACOMELLI said the signing of the new Agreement was an extraordinary confirmation of what has been an excellent relationship with the host country. At a moment when the United Nations system was painfully adjusting to a world-wide transition period, UNOV finds itself in Vienna in "an oasis of understanding". He said the new Agreement augurs well for making Vienna an even more attractive place as a host country.

Mr. SCHUESSEL said Austria was trying hard to create the best possible conditions to accommodate international organizations in Vienna. He noted that efforts to facilitate the access of family members of international staff to the Austrian labour market and the possibility for retired officials to get residence permits in Austria had been particularly difficult in an environment where most European countries faced the necessity of restrictive policies in those fields.

Those efforts by Austria should be seen as a confirmation of its readiness to make the international organizations feel at home in Austria, rather as members of the society of the host country than as foreigners. Austria was determined to continue its positive attitude towards maintaining Vienna as one of the centres of the United Nations, he said.

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