homepage_name! > Editions > Number 124 > Ambassador - Austria

H.E. Mr. Nikolaus Lutterotti Ambassador of the Republic of Austria in Serbia


Austria is a German-speaking country in Central Europe, characterized by mountain villages, baroque architecture, imperial history and rugged alpine terrain. Vienna, its Danube River capital, is home to the Schönbrunn and Hofburg palaces. It has counted Mozart, Strauss and Freud among its residents. The country’s other notable regions include the northern Bohemian Forest, Traunsee Lake and eastern hillside vineyards. The name Austria derives from a Germanic word ‘austro’ which means ‘east’. The Austrian flag is one of the oldest national flags in the world. The sewing machine was invented by Austrian Josef Madersperger. Approximately one quarter of the population of Austria lives in Vienna. Vienna has the oldest zoo in the world which was founded in 1752. Austria is known for its mountain railways and trains such as the Giselabahn. Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of the German sports car company ‘Porsche’, was from Austria. Former Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger grew up in Austria. 62% of Austria is covered by the Austrian Alps. The first postcards used were in Austria.

1. Your Excellency, how do you feel about being in Belgrade? Can you tell us about your impressions of Serbia?

Being the Austrian Ambassador to Serbia is a great privilege given our manifold historic, political, economic, and cultural relations. I feel very welcome here and enjoy living in Belgrade. Serbia is a very important partner of Austria. We are a strong supporter of Serbia's path to the European Union and believe that the European Union would be incomplete without Serbia and the other countries of the Western Balkans.

2. How long have you held the position of Ambassador in Serbia, and what was the course of your career in diplomacy before you came to Serbia?

I arrived in Belgrade in March 2018. Before coming to Belgrade, I was working in Vienna as an advisor to the Foreign Minister and then Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz. I previously worked for 8 years at the Austrian Mission to the United Nations in New York dealing with security issues as well as human rights. I had also been posted at the Austrian Embassy in Beijing.

3. What is the nature of the foreign trade cooperation between our countries and which industries in Serbia have the most potential? What does Serbia export to Austria, and what does it import from Austria?

Exports from Serbia have continuously increased over the last years, thus narrowing the trade gap between our two countries. This is a good sign for the competitiveness of Serbian producers as well as for the growing internationalization of production chains in Serbia. Despite this, the single most important export from Serbia are still frozen raspberries.

As regards imports from Austria, we see a strong demand for products like paper, pharmaceuticals, machinery and industrial equipment. We also see that Serbia, in particular Belgrade, has become more and more a regional center in the Western Balkans for many Austrian companies, taking advantage of the in-depth knowledge of their Serbian partners of the region. The IT-sector is definitely a very promising area for more intensive cooperation. Serbia is very fortunate to have excellent universities and colleges in this field and their graduates can compete with the best on a global level. Austrian companies are increasingly looking into new opportunities here in terms of recruiting, cooperation and outsourcing.

4. When it comes to investments, how do investors from Austria regard the Serbian market? How many Austrian companies are operating in Serbia at the moment and which are the most important companies investing in us?

We know from our surveys and our daily contacts that investors from Austria have improved their outlook for business in Serbia quite a bit over the last few years. The business community has very much welcomed the legal and administrative reforms of the past few years. But there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to the rule of law, the fight against corruption, and the transparency and length of procedures. On a more general level, the firm commitment of the Serbian government to follow the EU-path, definitely re-enforces trust and confidence in the future on the part of our business community. Our most important investors in Serbia are active in the financial sector – banking and insurance – as well as in mobile communication, construction, retail, logistics, and manufacturing. We estimate the number of Austrian companies in Serbia at around 400, providing for approximately 18,000 jobs.

5. How would you describe your cooperation with the Serbian Government and business associations for the purpose of entrepreneurship development?

Austria and Serbia cooperate well in this field. In particular, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia (CCIS) have enjoyed a close partnership for many years. Regarding the development of dual vocational training in Serbia, we initiated a cooperation project in 2016 with the help of the Austrian Development Agency. The results have been very impressive: currently 600 students in two professions are being dually-trained and the number is growing continuously. Moreover, the Federal Economic Chamber in Austriasees the digitalization of SME as one of its priorities and actively supports micro and small companies to cope with these new challenges. The Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry has shown serious interest in implementing a similar scheme here in Serbia and has already entered into concrete agreements with their Austrian counterparts towards this end.

6. Today, Serbia is a candidate country – the negotiations started in January 2014.In your opinion, how far along is Serbia on the path towards the EU, and what will be crucial for Serbia to become a member state?

Serbia is certainly among the frontrunners. The EU and Serbia have agreed on 35 chapters for accession negotiations out of which 17 have been opened. The pace of the accession process, however, will be determined by each member state and by the concrete results achieved in the reforms necessary for EU membership. In the case of Serbia, irreversible progress and the implementation of reforms in the area of the rule of law are very important. These are areas that will particularly benefit the citizens of Serbia and will also have a very beneficial impact on the business location of Serbia attracting more investments.It is also clear that if Serbia and Kosovo want to move ahead on their respective paths towards the EU they have to make progress in normalizing their relations. Austria will certainly continue to support Serbia’s EU integration process and its reform efforts, both on a bilateral level as well as within the European Union. We believe that it is important that the EU accession process remains a priority of the EU’s political agenda and we will advocate for this.

7. Can you tell us about the relationship between Serbia and Austria in the fields of science, culture and education?

Austria and Serbia share a longstanding and close cultural relationship. Continuing to broaden and expand cultural ties with Serbia and encouraging dialogue at all levels is a priority of Austrian foreign policy. The main institution in this regard is the Austrian Cultural Forum in Belgrade, which was established in 2001. It fosters the exchange between Austria and Serbia by promoting contemporary Austrian works in the fields of music, film, architecture, visual arts, literature, and theatre in Serbia. The emphasis is placed on the cooperation with a wide network of Serbian partners, in order to develop sustainable partnerships with local artists and scientists. In the future, the Cultural Forum will also focus on bringing attention to the excellent scientific collaborations between Austrian and Serbian universities in producing world-class research. The Cultural Forum closely cooperates with the Austrian Libraries in Belgrade and Novi Sad, which provide free access to over 5,000 German-language books and movies, and the Österreich Institut, which provides German language courses.

Additionally, the Austrian Foreign Ministry offers several programmes for younger cultural professionals from Serbia, such as the Q21 Residence programme dedicated to artists from Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe, which aims to provide them with the opportunity to live and work in Vienna, and to establish contacts on the local cultural scene. The Austrian chancellery and KulturKontakt Austria have also established an Artist-in-Residence Programme, as have several cities in Austria. I would also like to mention the cross-border network, TRADUKI, which supports the translation of books from, to and within languages of Southeast Europe.

8. How would you present your country as a tourist attraction? Which characteristics and sights would you highlight?

Austria has attractions for everyone. For those who like history, arts and science, Vienna and all other 8 capital cities of Austria’s federal states have excellent museums, galleries, arts and science events. The wide range of festivals, be it in Vienna, Salzburg, Bregenz, Graz or Linz, or in smaller locations is certainly a great attraction for those who love music, opera or theater. It would be unfair to single out particular attractions. Those who love nature and outdoor activities will find plenty of opportunities in Austria. I would also like to underline that Austria’s attraction is the result of enormous efforts by the government and the society at large to successfully protect the nature and natural resources and to display our pluralistic and rich cultural heritage in such a way that tourism remains a sustainable source of income.

9. What are the things you particularly like in Serbia? How do you spend your free time?

I like to travel in Serbia and visit the different parts of the country. Whenever possible, we use the weekends to get out of Belgrade and discover something new. I am very impressed by the Serbian wine industry. You have excellent wines here and they are not known enough in Europe. I am also a mountain lover that is why I like to visit the mountainous regions of Serbia, be it skiing in Kopaonik or hiking in Stara Planina.