An international forum
In the past thirty years, the Austro-French Centre has first been an international forum, for around ten thousands personalities from more than thirty countries, who met under its auspices Its congresses and conferences have been staged in fourteen European countries: 65 international conferences, 16 bilateral colloquiums, 5 business fora, 12 special congresses and 39 short seminars from 1980 to 2014 only. All together, the Centre has then organised around 150 events.
The different formats of the events organised echo the multiple approaches pursued by the Centre. The formal privileged since its establishment is the international conference with simultaneous translation, associating France and Austria in a community of action towards East-West relations in the 1980s, the EU integration of Eastern countries in the 1990s and the enlargement to the Western Balkans of a reflection on European construction in the 2000s. Between 1980 and 2014, more than 8000 persons have attended to the international conferences of the Austro-French Centre.
In order to improve the relations between France and Austria, the Austro-French Centre also organises bilateral conferences since 1995 with a more intimate circle of participants and the possibility for them to discuss subjects of mutual interests. In total, more than a thousand of them have been associated to the strictly bilateral proceedings of the Centre.
After decades devoted to strengthening political relations, the Centre offered for the first time in 1993 its services to French and Austrian companies. Until 2002, it organised a series of business forums in order to support French and Austrian investments in Central and Eastern European states prior to their accession in the EU. After that, it convened economic actors willing to invest more in France and Austria. More than 400 participants have attended to these business-oriented events.
Graph 1 : Cumulated number of participants in conference of the Austro-French Centre (1980-2014)
Last but not least, the Austro-French Centre organises since 1999 short seminars together with its partner in Paris, the IFRI. These seminars convene personalities to discuss specific issues at a very high level. For years, the Centre has been backed in Paris by its special counselor Ms. Éliane Mossé.
Promoting political dialogue
In organising its international conferences, the Austro-French Centre relies since 1986 on the assistance of the French and Austrian embassies operating in Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. They provide expertise throughout the elaboration of the programmes, suggest the name of potential speakers, establish contacts at the highest level, reinforce the visibility of the Centre and often invite the participants to a reception after the conferences.
This cooperation between French and Austrian administrations also takes place at another level, between the ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries. These contribute to the definition of the strategic objectives pursued by the Centre, jointly fund the organisation and have a say in all the decisions taken by the Directing Board, in which they are represented. The two ministries also contribute to the elaboration of the programmes. The activities of the Centre, in other words, also participate in intensifying the political dialogue between the two countries, whichever topic is chosen for the conferences. They suppose a community of action.
But the contribution of the Austro-French Centre in this area, finally, is also to bring together a number of French and Austrian personalities and to vivify their interactions. Their cooperation, at the economic, cultural, social or academic level, is instrumental in consolidating the political relations between the two countries.
A research and information Centre
Since its establishment, the Austro-French Centre ensures the publication of the proceedings of its conferences. Its insistence on communicating the results of the debates it stages responds to its initial objectives. Between 1983 and 1996, the Centre published a series of bilingual booklets, each volume transcribing the speeches given at the occasion of a conference. From 1986 onwards, most of these were also accompanied by a synthesis elaborated by an expert. These publications (around sixty all together) were available in the premises of the Centre or could be ordered through the IFRI.
From 1996, the Centre has published twice a year an information bulletin, the Lettre du CFA, only available in French. Originally conceived for the members of the Committees responsible for the Centre, the staff of French and Austrian embassies worldwide, these Lettre du CFA have been gradually disseminated to the public. It includes the synthesis of past conferences and the announcement of next conferences as well as other relevant information.
In the 2000s, the diffusion of the Lettre du CFA gained impetus through internet. The website of the Centre is now used to inform the general public about its conferences; it lists the speeches of the participants, offers photos as well as audio and video records. At some occasions, the conferences of the Centre could even be streamed online.
From 2011, at last, the Austro-French Centre edits together with the IFRI in Paris a collection of scientific publications available in two languages (French and German), entitled « Analyses du CFA » or « ÖFZ-Analyse ». This collection is devoted to the analysis of comparative politics and socio-economic issues in Eastern and Central Europe and the Balkans. The Analyses du CFA are short policy-oriented texts available on the websites of the Centre and the IFRI for free.