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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

6th September 2016 Vienna, Austria

Salzburg, Vienna, Austria: language, migration and nuclear testing

A month in Austria
What does a diplomat do?

On Monday 29 August I started work in Vienna as “Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to the UN and other International Organisations in Vienna”.

Recent weeks offer some pointers as to how I’ve prepared for the job, and, now, started.  For example, I arrived in Austria on 1 August as a language student to spend four weeks working on my German.  I was privileged to have the chance to improve my language; to talk to fascinating people; and to get a non-Vienna-centric view of Austria.  People I met included a passionate opponent of nuclear energy; representatives of the Arbeiterkammer (Chamber of Labour) and Wirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Commerce); journalists; politicians; cultural figures; social workers; refugees; business people; teachers; and many others.  Thanks to all of you!  At the end of my stay I took the ÖSD (Österreich Schweiz Deutschland) C2 exam.

I travelled both from London to Salzburg and from Salzburg to Vienna by train.  This echoed my arrival by train on my first posting to Vienna in 1984.  In addition to the element of nostalgia, I chose it because it was greener, cheaper and, especially, gave a better sense than air travel of the distance between our two countries.  If anyone’s thinking of doing a long-distance train trip across Europe I recommend The Man in Seat Sixty-One.

Starting any new job, you always want to get to know your teams.  Here in Vienna I am responsible both for the bilateral Embassy (ie dealing with Austria) and for our UK Mission to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna.  The bilateral side includes working together to tackle shared security challenges and build prosperity.  We support British companies developing export markets and set out the benefits to Austrian companies of investing or expanding in the UK – Austrian investors already account for over 30,000 jobs.  And we provide consular services for the 10,000 or so resident Brits in Austria and over 800,000 visitors each year.

On the multilateral side, organisations based in Vienna include the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO); the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); the Wassenaar Arrangement; the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs; and SE4All (Sustainable Energy for All).  The UK Delegation to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE, is also based in Vienna under the Ambassadorship of my excellent colleague Sian MacLeod.

All this makes Vienna a hub of diplomatic activity, where we seek to promote UK security and prosperity both in Austria and through international organisations.  The IAEA, for example, is responsible for verifying Iranian compliance with the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on its nuclear programme. The UK is working with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to ensure more effective controls on newly developed psychoactive substances. On the bilateral side, we are following closely developments on migration; and preparing for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

All these subjects really matter, to the people of the United Kingdom, Austria and beyond.

So I was delighted on Thursday to visit the IAEA to deliver my accreditation papers to the Director General, Yukiya Amano; and, the same day, to make an official call on Dr Michael Linhart, Secretary General for Foreign Affairs at the Austrian Foreign Ministry (a chance to try out my German).  Both welcomed me warmly; I look forward to working with them.

At the end of the week, we helped to organise a visit from the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, for a bilateral meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. The visit included an opportunity to view the Treaty of Vienna in the Austrian State Archives – a reminder of the role Austria has played for many years at the heart of European diplomacy.

So that is what this diplomat has been doing in a busy first week. Coming up, we have the IAEA Board of Governors in the week of 19 September and the IAEA General Conference in the week of 26 September.

I can’t wait to get stuck in.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.