First Meeting Between Austrian and French Foreign Ministers in Paris

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: January 17, 2023; 12:44 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg traveled to Paris for various working talks and meeting to strengthen Franco-Austrian relations. There was also the first bilateral meeting between Austria's Schallenberg and France's Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (r.) his French counterpart Catherine Colonna (l.) in Paris. / Picture: © BMEIA Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres / Gruber / Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Austria's diplomacy took a little longer to get back up to speed in the new year, but now the foreign minister of the Republic of Austria, Alexander Schallenberg, traveled to Paris to strengthen Franco-Austrian relations. Schallenberg used the meetings to make a plea to keep a sense of proportion vis-à-vis Moscow regarding the Russian war against Ukraine.

The program included a meeting with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and participation in the "Youth & Leaders Summit" at Sciences Po University. Other items on the program included a working meeting with the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol, an exchange with members of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Assemblée Nationale and a meeting with members of the Austrian-French Center and the Institut français des relations internationales.

First meeting between the foreign ministers of France and Austria

The first bilateral meeting between Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and Catherine Colonna since the latter took office last year focused not only on bilateral issues but also on the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Europe's geopolitical positioning.

It is important to consider what a solution at the negotiating table might look like, he said, because the European security architecture will have to include Russia in one way or another as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a nuclear power. An important role will be played by the OSCE as one of the few remaining platforms where Russian and Western diplomats sit face-to-face. In the EU's geopolitical positioning, he said, it is also important to appear stronger and more independent.

Russia will remain part of European history and culture, Schallenberg said. The foreign minister said there was no doubt about Ukraine's full support in its struggle for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"The brutal war of aggression instigated by Russia is madness. But at the same time we have to think about the day after, the week after and the months after," Schallenberg said, according to ORF.

"The EU must significantly strengthen its strategic autonomy in the coming years. Both in the area of security and defense concerning the Russian war of aggression and other trouble spots in the EU's neighborhood and in the area of the economy to maintain the EU's competitiveness," Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg agreed with his French counterpart.

Visit to the Youth & Leaders Summit

In a speech at the Youth & Leaders Summit, Schallenberg had addressed "the European security architecture after the Russian war of aggression, the EU's future relations with Russia, and geopolitical transformation processes and challenges," the Foreign Ministry said.

At the "Youth & Leaders Summit" at the Paris School of International Affairs of the prestigious policy school Sciences Po, the foreign minister spoke about what contribution the young generation can make to the previously mentioned issues.

"Among the biggest tasks for 2023 and the coming years are, on the one hand, to preserve our unity - because, if we disagree, we have already lost - and, on the other hand, to keep a sense of proportion," Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg preached to the students.

"We must not overshoot the mark by, for example, introducing a visa ban for 144 million Russians," Schallenberg said, as reported by ORF, according to his spokeswoman, at a conference at the elite French university Sciences Po in Paris.

Schallenberg correctly stated that platforms such as the OSCE should be preserved, explaining that "they were created over the last decades for very good reasons. Our actions today will determine the status of the free world in the years to come."

Schallenberg also referred to the OSCE, stating the OSCE must be maintained, Schallenberg demanded, again criticizing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's disinvitation from the recent OSCE meeting in Poland.

"The OSCE is one of the few remaining platforms where Russian diplomats sit and have to listen to our arguments, our sharp criticism of the Russian war of aggression," the foreign minister said, according to ORF.

Schallenberg then discussed nuclear nonproliferation, among other issues, with other experts and students. In the afternoon, an informal meeting was held with students from the university, including some from Austria.

Further meetings in Paris

Finding ways out of the energy crisis was the topic of Foreign Minister Schallenberg's working discussion with International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Briol. Thanks to great efforts, a gas crisis could be prevented, but Austria and the entire EU are nevertheless facing a difficult situation, which should also be solved through cooperation with the IEA.

The search for common solutions was also the focus of the exchange with members of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Assemblée Nationale. Especially on the topics of migration and EU enlargement, Austria and France could further strengthen their cooperation.