Articles - June 2018


Austrian Consul General in New York Dr. Helmut Boeck

There are many foreign consulates represented in New York City that function as a valuable support system and actively advocate for their respective citizens living in the United States. Consulates in New York work in tandem with the United Nations and are a vital component to the international community. Diplomatic Connections continues its “Consul General” series featuring the majestic country of Austria.

Diplomatic Connections: How and when did your career in diplomacy begin?

Consul General Boeck:  I joined the Austrian Foreign Ministry in the eighties of the last century; over 34 years as an Austrian diplomat, my postings spanned various continents having served in Senegal, Poland, New York, as Consul General in Hong Kong and as Austrian Ambassador to the Republic of South Korea, as well as to the United Nations in Vienna and, in my last position before coming to New York, as Austrian Ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and many other Pacific countries.

Diplomatic Connections: How did you come to be a diplomat in New York?

Consul General Boeck: Being posted as the new Head of Mission of the Austrian Consulate General in New York is also a sort of homecoming for me as this great city was my first diplomatic posting in the middle of/late 1980’s. When the opportunity presented itself, returning to New York was very appealing to me. I still have excellent memories of my previous posting here and although the city has changed a bit, I felt right at home after a little while. It is interesting that sometimes in a diplomatic life a career turns full circle also geographically and hence, it is wonderful to be back in New York.

Diplomatic Connections: What is the anticipated length of stay for your particular posting here in New York?

Consul General Boeck: Diplomatic postings in my rank normally last around four years.

Diplomatic Connections: How do you define the mission of a Consulate General and for your nation specifically?

Consul General Boeck: The 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations defines more than a dozen consular functions. Apart from a variety of consular services including the issuance of passports and visa, two very pertinent tasks are, of course, looking after the Austrian community and Austrian interests as well as strengthening bilateral relations.

Consul General Boeck: The mission statement for the Austrian Foreign Service is “At Your Service Worldwide.” Thus, the Consulate General in New York is one important cornerstone in the Austrian net of four professional and 28 honorary consular representations in the U.S. and of over four hundred representations all over the world.

Diplomatic Connections: What is its role in New York versus another city in the United States?

Consul General Boeck: New York is a host to the United Nations and to citizens from all over the world. The same applies to Vienna which is also hosting a United Nations office and a number of international organizations. Incidentally and also due to the high diversity of New York’s population, the Consulate General issued visas to at least one person from every country requiring visas to enter the Schengen area in 2017.

Since the Big Apple is also a center for the arts and the media as well as for business opportunities including startups, innovation and science, a structure has been set up with offices specializing in these areas of the bilateral relations.

Manhattan is the center of the most densely populated metropolitan area (Tri-state) in the U.S. with more than 20 million people, roughly 2.5 times the population of Austria. Migration from Austria to the U.S. has been strong in the past and the main port of entry has been New York. Thus, the Consulate General serves as an important link to those who have stayed in this tremendous city. There are also approximately 2,000 holocaust survivors currently living in New York. This community in the U.S., which includes so many eminent personalities, is a constituent part of Austrian-American relations and its history.

Diplomatic Connections: How is the Austrian Consulate General organized specifically in New York?

Consul General Boeck: The Main Office in New York is on East 69th Street with a focus on consular services and outreach. In addition, Austria maintains an Austrian Cultural Forum with a view of fostering cultural and scientific ties, the Advantage Austria office in the context of commercial and economic matters, as well as an Office of the Austrian National Bank.

Diplomatic Connections: What region does the Austrian consulate represent for the northeast corridor?

Consul General Boeck: The jurisdiction of the Consulate General encompasses 17 out of the 50 states in the U.S., i.e. in the Northeast and Midwest along the Atlantic Coast and the Big Lakes with some 10,000 Austrian nationals and many more tens of thousands former Austrians. The Consulate General issues to them a variety of documents and to Austrian nationals in particular passports. Our job is to keep them informed about developments in our nation and thus represent a visible and appreciated tie to their  homeland, respectively former homeland.

Diplomatic Connections: How is the Austrian economic collaboration with the United States?

Consul General Boeck: For the past two years, the U.S. has become Austria’s second largest export market, surpassed only by Germany, and the U.S. is by far the most important market overseas. Austrian investment in the U.S. and U.S. investment in Austria are very similar and amount to more than €10 billion or €12 billion, respectively, providing over 30,000 jobs in the U.S. and more than 21,000 jobs in Austria. Therefore, economic collaboration is certainly of strong mutual interest to both of our countries. Presently, approximately 680 Austrian firms and representations can be found in the U.S. and roughly 330 U.S. representations in Austria.

Diplomatic Connections: What is the role of the Consulate General when you have elections in your country?

Consul General Boeck: Austrian nationals living abroad are entitled to participate in all federal and EU elections and at many elections at state level by postal vote. The Consulate General assists with a number of procedural issues including voter registration. The Consulate General is, however, no polling station. Although we help with forwarding and returning ballot papers, no ballots are cast at the premises of the Consulate General.

Diplomatic Connections: What services does the Consulate General offer to your country’s nationals residing in your district as well as visiting tourists?

Consul General Boeck: The tasks are really manifold and probably the best overview one could get is found on the Consulate General’s website in German and English:
Let me just mention the most important ones:

issuance of personal documents such as passports and birth certificates;

authentication of signatures and, particularly for the U.S., issuance of an apostille;

assistance with citizenship and related matters, such as elections and military service;

consular protection for arrested Austrians including visits at detention centers;

assistance with pension matters and restitution issues;

point of first contact with information on all other matters including legal and health issues;

travel advice particularly for Austrian tourists;

assistance in emergency situations (injuries, lost passports, missing persons etc).

Diplomatic Connections: How does the Consulate General participate in the cultural and touristic promotion of your nation in the United States?

Consul General Boeck: Although the Consulate General is hosting events from time to time at the Main Office, the real stage for cultural events is at the Austrian Cultural Forum. Whoever is interested should have a look at the ACFNY homepage and the intense program featuring new events every week:

Regarding tourism, there is the New York regional office of the Austrian National Tourist Office. We have a link to their website informing about Austria as a tourist destination:

The Austrian National Tourist Office in New York establishes also business contacts for tourism companies with a special website:

Diplomatic Connections: How can the Consulate General help those who are not Austrian citizens planning to travel to your country?

Consul General Boeck: We encourage everyone interested in travelling to Austria to visit our website Apart from a travel guide to Austria, our principle function is to inform people about entry visas, residence permits and studying in Austria. And of course, we are happy to receive phone calls or written queries on any issue not dealt with on our website.

Diplomatic Connections: What would the difference be if you were to make suggestions for a tourist versus someone going there on business?

Consul General Boeck: Visitors to Austria and the Schengen area, both tourists and business people, who are U.S. citizens, generally do not require visas for a stay of up to 90 days within a period of six months, neither for the purpose of studies nor educational courses.

Useful information for visitors to Austria is readily available on the websites of the respective offices of the Consulate General. Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Consulate General (for tourists) and the specialized offices Advantage Austria (for business) as well as the Austrian National Tourist Office respectively.

Diplomatic Connections: Are there any upcoming cultural events organized by the Consulate General? Are they open to the public?

Consul General Boeck: There are many events, most of them at the Austrian Cultural Forum. All events are open to the general public and are free. Due to limited capacity, however, it is necessary to register in time. Some events  have already taken place this year at the Consulate General’s Main Office like the lecture Eternal spring, The gardens of Stoclet House (1905–1911) – the masterpiece of Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte by the Austrian scholar Professor Dr. Anette Freytag.

Diplomatic Connections: If you had a message for our readers specifically concerning your country, what would it be and why

Consul General Boeck: My message would be “small is beautiful.” As I mentioned before, the New York metropolitan/Tri-state area alone accounts for two and a half times the population of Austria. Thus, Austria is a rather smaller country by size, but the beauty of its landscape and its cities brimming with history and culture can hardly be surpassed. In 2017, for example, Vienna was voted the most livable city in the world for the eighth time in a row. Positive feedback is provided by many visitors. We hope you visit and experience Austria in the near future.

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