Friday

24th Nov 2017

Austria rolls out red carpet for Putin

Austria has criticised Western sanctions on Russia and signed a contract to build a Russian pipeline despite EU concerns.

The developments came on a visit to Vienna by Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (24 June).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Putin (l): 'I am very happy to be in Vienna, a city I love' (Photo: kremlin.ru)

The Russian president, who was recently snubbed by G7 leaders over Ukraine, met Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Werner Faymann. He also laid a wreath at a WWII monument in the city centre and met business chiefs in Austria's Chamber of Commerce.

He said the US is trying to derail the pipeline project - South Stream - which is to pump half of Russia’s gas exports to Europe from 2016, bypassing Ukraine.

“They [the US] themselves want to supply gas to the European market. But I assure you, it will not be cheaper than Russian gas. Pipeline gas is always cheaper than liquefied gas … they are doing everything possible to break up this [South Stream] contract."

He claimed South Stream will increase Europe’s "energy security" in "the context of the current developments in Ukraine”.

Amid EU accusations he poured arms, special forces, and mercenaries into Ukraine, he said “we did not use the [Russian] armed forces directly for any combat operations".

He added that criticism of human rights abuse in Russia is based on “stereotypes" which are "to a large extent … a fictional idea”.

His Austrian hosts did not challenge his remarks.

Fischer instead criticised EU sanctions on Russia, saying: “Nobody benefits from sanctions … They aren’t helping to produce any profit for anybody”.

He defended South Stream, saying: “No one can explain to me - and I can't explain to the Austrian people - why a pipeline that crosses EU and Nato countries can't go 50km into Austria”.

Faymann praised Putin’s “recent de-escalation measures” on Ukraine.

According to a Reuters report, Christoph Leitl, the head of the Austrian commerce chamber, quipped that Austria has a territorial claim to Ukraine because part of it belonged to Austria in 1914.

Putin, who annexed Crimea in March, also joked, saying: "What is that supposed to mean? What are you proposing?"

On the business front, the head of Austrian energy firm OMV, Gerhard Roiss, and Gazprom chief Alexei Miller signed a contract to create South Stream Austria - a joint venture to build the €200 million Austrian bit of the pipeline.

“Europe needs Russian gas and it will need more Russian gas as its own supply dwindles”, Roiss said.

The OMV-Gazprom deal is a challenge to the European Commission, which says EU states must renegotiate their intergovernmental agreements with Russia in line with EU law.

Words and deeds

Putin’s visit came after he told his parliament to rescind a mandate for Russian soldiers to enter Ukraine to protect Russian speakers.

But pro-Russia rebels in east Ukraine the same day shot down a helicopter with a heat-seeking missile, killing nine soldiers, despite Ukraine’s unilateral ceasefire.

Some of Putin's remarks in Vienna also indicated that his politics has not changed.

“Of course, we will always protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine and the part of the Ukrainian population, the Ukrainian people, who feel not just an ethnic but also a cultural connection to Russia, who feel themselves part of the greater Russian community”, he said.

EU leaders will at a summit in Brussels on Friday decide whether to impose further sanctions on Russia.

For his part, Swedish FM Carl Bildt at an EU meeting in Luxembourg on Monday criticised Austria’s invitation of Putin. He said Moscow is "trying to split the European Union … that’s what the Russians always do when they are in a cornered position”.

Three separate EU diplomatic sources told this website there is no appetite for tough sanctions against Russia at this stage.

Opinion

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Germany remains 'active' in EU
  2. Work with Israel, Egypt on gas exploration, says Commission
  3. Only seven EU states have 'advanced' stage climate plans
  4. EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries
  5. EU approves joint Irish electricity scheme
  6. German president to launch 'Grand Coalition' talks
  7. Irish opposition 'threatens national interest', says minister
  8. SPD drops opposition to grand coalition in Germany

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  5. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  7. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  8. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  9. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  10. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  11. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  12. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left

Latest News

  1. What Armenia's new agreement with the EU means
  2. Member states still lack definition of 'energy poverty'
  3. Chinese the most bullish on EU investment, report finds
  4. Lead MEP says EU is weeks away from deal on car approvals
  5. EU still giving gas projects 'fast-track' status
  6. Irish crisis may complicate Brexit summit
  7. UK to call out 'hostile' Russia at EU summit
  8. EU calls for better disease prevention