You are here
Home > News > Austria criticized for granting visas to the Russian OSCE delegation

Austria criticized for granting visas to the Russian OSCE delegation

Representatives of 20 member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called on the Austrian government to withdraw its decision to grant visas to the Russian delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. 15 members of the delegation are included in the EU sanctions list.

“It is crucial to remember that the Russian Parliament is an integral part of the system of power and is complicit in the crimes that Russia commits every day in Ukraine,” delegates from 20 countries, including Poland, Ukraine, France, Canada, and Great Britain, said in a joint statement. They added that the Russian delegation has no place in an institution tasked with “sincere dialogue and opposition to the war.”

The Russian delegation to the OSCE PA meeting scheduled for February 23-24 in Vienna includes 15 parliamentarians who are subject to EU sanctions, including Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg had previously defended the decision, arguing that the government in Vienna, where the OSCE headquarters is located, is legally obliged to allow all interested delegations to attend the sessions.

US Permanent Representative to the OSCE Michael Carpenter did not sign the joint letter, but said at a press conference that Russian delegates are not people “who deserve to be able to travel to Western countries.” However, he added that the final decision on this matter rests with the Austrian government.

“The 57-member OSCE has no mechanism to kick Russia out of the organization, still we isolate Russia and Belarus every week,” Carpenter said.

The Austrian government is under increasing pressure to toughen its course toward Russia. While Vienna condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it also emphasized the need to maintain diplomatic relations with Moscow.

Unlike Sweden and Finland, which applied to join NATO after the Russian invasion, Austria wants to remain neutral. It regularly sends humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but not weapons. Also, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer was the only European Union leader to meet Putin in person after February 24, 2022.

Austria retains strong economic ties with Russia. Before the invasion of Ukraine, 80 percent of Austria’s natural gas imports came from Russia. Currently, it dropped to 20 percent.

The Austrian banking sector is also closely related to the Russian market. More than half of the profits of the country’s second-largest bank, Raiffeisenbank International, were generated in Russia. The institution is currently considering a permanent withdrawal from the Russian market.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.