Austrian & Iranian FM 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The Austrian Chamber of Commerce’s decision early this month to hold a workshop
in Vienna to expand trade with Iran has sparked criticism from Austria’s Jewish
community and the European NGO Réalité EU.
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“The Chamber of Commerce is
advising firms on how to circumvent the sanctions against Iran,” the Jewish
community said on its website.
“Michael Tockuss, of the German-Iranian
Chamber of Commerce, the most important lobbyist of the Holocaust- denying
regime in Teheran,” was invited, the Jewish community said.
contributed to “the diligent construction of commemorative plaques and memorials
since the Shoah,” but the Chamber of Commerce does not shy away from trade with
Iran, the 7,500-member Jewish community said.
According to the
community’s statement, current Iranian-Austrian trade relationship reminds one
“that under the Nazis, German- Austrian industry profited from the annihilation
The Jewish community statement termed Austria’s business deals
with Teheran “disgraceful and morally reprehensible.”
Dr. Diana Gregor, a
political analyst and researcher with Réalité EU, an organization that tracks
European- Iranian trade, told The Jerusalem Post
this week that “Austria has the
reputation of being docile toward Iran.”
In June 2009 and this month, the
Austrian Chamber of Commerce held seminars to “intensify” business with Iran,
said Gregor, an authority on Austrian-Iranian economic relations.
are roughly 680 Austrian companies that have business relations with Iranian
firms or the Iranian state. Some 35 Austrian firms have local branches in Iran
and another 500 companies occasionally conduct business with Islamic Republic,”
“Austrian companies are earning good money in Iran” but rarely
talk publicly about the activity, Gregor added.
Austria’s exports to the
Islamic Republic have increased by 6 percent since the global economic crisis
began, she said.
Responding to the criticism, the Austrian Chamber of
Commerce said in a statement on its website that “in no way” will the seminar
“show participating companies ways to circumvent international sanctions against
According to the chamber, the concern is to explain to Austrian
companies “the restrictions to be considered when commencing business relations
Gregor termed the Chamber of Commerce’s explanation a “lame
excuse” and a “whitewash” of the real purpose of the workshop.
Austrian chamber of commerce is continually promoting the expansion of trade
relations with the Islamic Republic and is proud of the past performance,” she
She cited Christoph Leitl, the chamber’s president, as someone who
“not only supports the expansion but also actively solicits” Iranian
The workshop showcased a who’s who of Austrian political and
business leaders. According to the Jewish community, the attendees
included Michael Friedl, Austria’s trade representative in Teheran; Dr. Gerta
Mlejnek from the chamber; and Dr. Helmut Krehlik of the Austrian Ministry
for Economy, Family and Youth.
Dr. Robert Granditsch, from the Austrian
Federal Financial Ministry, was also present, as was Ferdinand Schipfer from the
Österreichische Kontrollbank Aktiengesellschaft (OeKB), a company owned by
Austria’s commercial banks that is the country’s chief “provider of financial
and information services to the export industry and the capital
Representatives of German companies also participated in the
seminar. Dr. Julia Pfeil of the Chicago-based Baker & McKenzie law firm’s
Frankfurt office and Hans-Anton Sapper, chief executive officer of the Sapper
Global ECS (Export Control Solutions) software company in Kempen, North
Rhine-Westphalia, were listed.