Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg Opposes Boycott of Hungary's EU Presidency

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: July 10, 2024; 12:23 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has firmly opposed a boycott of Hungary's EU Presidency, despite the controversial solo actions of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who recently traveled to Moscow without an EU mandate. Schallenberg emphasized the importance of maintaining a professional working relationship within the EU.

Austrian FM Alexander Schallenberg wants Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to explain himself after his solo trip to Moscow. / Picture: © BMEIA Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres / Gruber / Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

In an interview on the Ö1 morning journal, as reported by ORF, Schallenberg stated that Orbán must explain his unauthorized trip to Moscow. "He did not speak on behalf of the European Union. He has no mandate, no authority," the Foreign Minister stressed. These trips, including the meeting with the sanctioned Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, were solely Hungary's concern.

Despite criticizing Orbán, Schallenberg highlighted the importance of dialogue and negotiations, especially considering the geopolitical landscape. He emphasized the role of India, which was preparing a grand reception for its Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Vienna on the same day. India is a significant voice of the Global South and influences Moscow, while also maintaining an exceptional partnership with the United States. Schallenberg warned against a simplistic black-and-white worldview and stressed the complexity of international relations.

Regarding his diplomatic decisions, as reported by "DerStandard", Schallenberg defended his absence from the NATO summit in Washington in favor of hosting Prime Minister Modi. This visit marked the first time in over 40 years that an Indian Prime Minister visited Austria, accompanied by Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, whom Schallenberg described as a personal friend. He stated that the uproar over his absence at the NATO dinner was exaggerated and reaffirmed Austria's role as a militarily neutral state that remains committed to the NATO Partnership for Peace.

Schallenberg also advocated for a new Austrian security strategy, which has not yet been adopted due to coalition disagreements. He accused the Green Party of delaying the strategy's implementation with their demands in energy policy, particularly regarding the dependence on Russian gas. Schallenberg reiterated the goal of ending this dependence and emphasized the need for a clear and coherent foreign policy.

Overall, Schallenberg called for a pragmatic and professional approach to the challenges of international politics, without neglecting the necessary political and diplomatic boundaries.