188. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Austrian-EEC Relations; Habsburg Case; Eastern Europe; Sino-Soviet Relations; Various Other Topics


  • Austria
    • Dr. Erich Bielka-Karltreu, Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Ambassador Platzer, Austrian Embassy
  • United States
    • Mr. William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary, EUR
    • Mr. Dwight J. Porter, Assistant Secretary for Administration
    • Mr. Francis X. Lambert, WE

Mr. Tyler had invited Ambassador Bielka to lunch. A member of the Austrian delegation to the UNGA, Bielka had come to Washington for a three-day visit.

Dr. Bielka said that some of the EEC countries had been pressing Austria for a commitment to leave the EFTA if an Austrian-EEC arrangement were successfully negotiated. French Foreign Minister Couve de Murville was one of those insisting that Austria make such a commitment. Austria, however, did not wish to commit itself, no matter how informally, until it had a much clearer idea than now of what kind of an arrangement it would be able to work out with the EEC. Austria’s trade with the EEC had not suffered to date as result of the increased EEC discriminatory tariffs, but some manufacturers and exporters were complaining that, in order to compete in the Common Market, they had to reduce their profit margins and even sell at a loss on occasion. It was extremely difficult to ascertain how much truth there was in these complaints.

Turning to Eastern Europe, Dr. Bielka said that there were indications that important changes were taking place there. He referred specifically to the recent relaxation of travel regulations by Czechoslovakia and Hungary and to the apparent attempts by the satellites to gain a greater degree of economic independence from the USSR. He knew of no recent developments concerning Cardinal Mindszenty. Cardinal Koenig, who had seen Cardinal Mindszenty at the U.S. Legation in Budapest several months ago, had been attending the Ecumenical Council in Rome during the past two months.

[Page 395]

In reply to a question, Dr. Bielka said that Otto von Habsburg had publicly denied recent reports in the Vienna press that he would attempt to enter Austria during the Christmas season. Bielka thought that the Government controversy over Habsburg’s attempts to return to Austria, which reached a crisis stage just before the summer holidays, had subsided markedly since then and that it was unlikely to pose a serious problem for the coalition again in the near future. Agreement of the coalition partners on the budget was a good sign.

Dr. Bielka asked about the future of U.S.–USSR relations, the Sino-Soviet controversy, the situation in Laos, and the possibility of a President Johnson–General De Gaulle meeting. Mr. Tyler thought that Mikoyan’s thumbs-up gesture at the Moscow airport upon his return from President Kennedy’s funeral was significant. The Russians were not given to making such gestures lightly. President Johnson had stressed to Mikoyan that he would make unremitting efforts to continue President Kennedy’s policy of seeking peaceful solutions to outstanding problems in U.S.-USSR relations.1 As for Sino-Soviet differences, Mr. Tyler said it was difficult to foresee what the outcome might be. However, he thought these differences involved something more than ideological interpretations. He saw no indications that the gap would be closed appreciably in the near future. With regard to Laos, Mr. Tyler said that he was not fully current on the situation there since he did not normally have time to read the cable traffic on this subject. So far as he knew, there had been no significant changes in the Laotian situation recently. As for a President Johnson–General De Gaulle meeting, agreement had been reached in principle that there should be such a meeting, but no details were settled regarding the time or place. President Segni of Italy would pay an official visit to Washington in January and meet with President Johnson. This visit had been scheduled before the death of President Kennedy.

Replying to a question by Mr. Tyler, Dr. Bielka said that he had no matters relating to U.S.-Austrian bilateral relations to discuss. When Mr. Tyler said that he also had no bilateral matters to raise and in passing mentioned the assets problem, Dr. Bielka merely nodded. Ambassador Platzer asked if Mr. Mansfield (IGA) had returned from Europe, where he had gone to investigate the grain diversions. He said that Mr. Plan, the Embassy’s Financial Counselor, would like an appointment with Mr. Mansfield to be briefed on the progress of the investigation. There followed a brief discussion on the possibility of lifting the suspension on PL480 feed grain shipments to Austria. The recent press articles on the diversions and the interest of Congress in the irregularities, as well as the fact that the investigation had not yet been completed, were cited by [Page 396] Department officers as impediments to an early lifting of the suspension. Further on Austrian-EEC relations, in reply to questions by Mr. Porter, Dr. Bielka said that there were some Austrians who were willing to make a commitment now to the EEC that Austria would withdraw from the EFTA upon entering an arrangement with the EEC. Others, however, were opposed to making such a commitment, in part because they feared it would entail a progressive decline in Austria’s exports to the EFTA countries while the Austrian-EEC negotiations were still in progress. They feared permanent loss of EFTA markets if the negotiations with the EEC were unsuccessful. As for the USSR’s attitude toward an Austrian-EEC arrangement, Dr. Bielka said that although it was true that the USSR had not recently reiterated its earlier warnings, there could be no doubt that the Soviets took a serious view of Austria’s entering an arrangement with the EEC. Their recent silence stemmed from the realization that an arrangement was not imminent and their warnings would undoubtedly be resumed if the prospects for an arrangement improved.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, ECIN 6 EEC-Aus. Confidential. Drafted by Lambert. The meeting was held at the Metropolitan Club.
  2. For documentation on the Johnson–Mikoyan meeting, see vol. V, Documents 236 and 237.