Austria’s ability to help Seychelles add value to its tourism product so visitors to the island nation get real value for their money was one of the subjects discussed between President Wavel Ramkalawan and his Austrian counterpart, Alexander Van der Bellen, State House said on Thursday.
Ramkalawan arrived in Vienna, the Austrian capital, on Wednesday on a three-day official visit. He will be attending the 5th edition of the Austria World Summit at the invitation of President Van der Bellen.
On Wednesday evening, Ramkalawan attended a dinner hosted by a former Governor of California and movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will be co-chairing the Austria Summit with President Van der Bellen. Ramkalawan heads a delegation of three from Seychelles.
Ramkalawan with Arnold Schwarzenegger who will be co-chairing the Austria Summit. (State House) Photo License: CC-BY
On Thursday, Ramkalawan extended an invitation to President Van der Bellen to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
After thanking Ramkalawan for accepting his invitation, President Van der Bellen pointed out that Austria and Seychelles must “cooperate more than in the past as the two countries have common interests and experience sharing will be mutually benefitting.”
The two presidents agreed that there are three areas that Seychelles and Austria can deepen cooperation, namely tourism, protection of the environment and creating business opportunities.
On his side, President Van der Bellen remarked that tourism was a key industry in both Seychelles and Austria and both countries were hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic which last year caused the island nation’s Gross Domestic Product to shrink by twice that of Austria.
Ramkalawan said that “the Chambers of Commerce of Austria and Seychelles could work together to find and exploit more business opportunities in Seychelles.”
For the protection of the environment, the Seychelles’ President pointed out that “at COP26 in Glasgow, Seychelles and Austria would add their voices to those of other small nations to say that we live in an interconnected world and that all countries need to act quickly against climate change.”
Ramkalawan and Austrian President Van der Bellen agreed to deepen cooperation in three areas. (State House) Photo License: CC-BY
When asked what he thought of climate change as a President and also a priest, Ramkalawan said that “the two roles have one thing in common, which is creation, meaning the need to preserve nature, thus our human race and other species and of course our habitat.”
He added that as a President and priest he could sensitise people on the need to protect the environment and get them to take the necessary actions and illustrated his point with the example of tuna fishing.
Seychelles had the biggest fishing agreement with the European Union in the Indian Ocean but at the same time yellow tuna is under threat and Ramkalawan explained that in its negotiations with the EU, Seychelles had insisted on sustainability and controlled exploitation of the species.
One subject on which the two heads of state agreed is fighting climate change. President Van der Bellen, who also leads the Austrian Green Party, echoed President Ramkalawan’s view that “we have passed the point of beautiful speeches and now is the time for action,” adding that “we have wasted over 30 years.”
The two Presidents agreed to take this message of the urgency of action on climate change to the 5th edition of the Austria World Summit and COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland later this year. The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be held in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 12.
The two Presidents made short statements before taking questions from journalists of the Austrian Press Agency and Austrian Broadcasting Corporation.