Jeremy Wilmshurst

Second Secretary (Political), British Embassy Vienna

Guest blogger for Leigh Turner

Part of UK in Austria

3rd July 2018 Vienna, Austria

Prince Metternich, the UK, Austria and the Western Balkans

Guest blog by Jeremy Wilmshurst, Second Secretary (Political)

There’s a saying in Vienna, ascribed to 19th Century Austrian statesman Prince Metternich, that ‘the Balkans begins on Rennweg’. The latter is the road running south-east out of Vienna in the direction of Belgrade and beyond. Close to the top of Rennweg stands the British Embassy (reached, pleasingly, via a short detour along Metternichgasse).

The Prince’s saying is a fitting one, given that our embassy in Vienna has long cooperated with the Austrian government on issues related to the Western Balkans. This year the focus of our cooperation is the UK’s chairmanship of the Berlin Process, an initiative begun by Chancellor Merkel in 2014.

The Process brings together the leaders of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia with the UK, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Poland and Bulgaria. Its aim is to promote regional cooperation, and to support the EU enlargement aspirations of the Western Balkans region. Although the UK is leaving the EU, we see the enlargement process as a positive tool in the region’s reform path. When accession requirements have been met, it will be for the country in question and the EU to decide on membership.

As part of the Berlin Process, a few weeks ago we hosted a group of civil society representatives from across the region at the British Ambassador’s Residence. They were joined by representatives from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They came to agree recommendations for the ministerial meetings of the Berlin Process, and in a series of lively discussions covered gender equality, regional economies, political & legacy issues, and security. The process isn’t about governments alone, but about energising and engaging with every part of society; that is why the role of civil society is so important.

The April meeting isn’t the end of the Embassy’s involvement in this year’s process. This week, with the Austrian government, we will be co-hosting a meeting of economy ministers in the run-up to the summit meeting in London on July 10th.

The UK’s role in hosting this year’s summit is only one part of our ongoing engagement with the Western Balkans. Our commitment to that region and to wider European Security – in partnership with Austria and other partners – is longstanding. It will continue even as the UK’s institutional relationship with the EU changes, and the British Embassy sitting on Rennweg will keep playing its role in that.

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.