Austrian presidency in EU Council is over: How EU relations with #Russia are progressing

| December 12, 2018

As the year is coming to an end, Austria is about to accomplish its presidency in the Council of the European Union. Known for its strong diplomatic relations with Russia, Vienna was believed by some experts to strengthen the ties between Moscow and the EU. However, despite positive forecasts, the Austria-Russia friendship has been marked with a number of episodes this year causing some halt in EU’s warming up to Russia, writes Olga Malik.

It was only in August when Russian President Vladimir Putin danced at the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl. The invitation caused quite a debate in the EU diplomatic community due to continuous controversies with Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and other issues. Nevertheless, many experts and journalists at that time were saying that Putin was no longer unwelcome in Europe and was getting a much warmer reception in Europe than Trump.

Indeed, Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal and US sanctions over European and Russian companies dealing with Iran suddenly created common ground for the European Union and Russia.

But the “peaceful” period did not last that long. In November 2018, Europe was shaken by a scandal over a Russian spy. Ironically it may seem, Vienna became the main epicenter of the row. According to the German intelligence service, a senior Austrian military officer is believed to have spied for Moscow for decades. The incident has fueled tensions between the two countries, making the Austrian foreign minister cancel her planned visit to Moscow in December.

However, it seems that Austria is not going to cross off the mutual relations with Russia. According to Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the EU’s top priority in 2019 shall be defusing the tension with Russia. He also added that a long-term peace in Europe is only possible through collaboration with Moscow.

As experts agree, Austria is trying to consider not only particular internal interests of the EU, but the interests of all European players in the global arena as well. Austria’s intention to collaborate with Russia is also proved by the new projects the EU has introduced this year. Among them are projects to enhance mutual EU-Russia entrepreneurship, economic and diplomatic collaboration, socially-oriented initiatives and more.

Apart from that, the European Union with Austria as the main initiator, has broadened collaboration for the EU’s Eastern Partnership project and has introduced a number of initiatives to strengthen the economic ties with Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, Opinion, Russia