Official Visit of the Czech President Petr Pavel to Austria

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: June 7, 2023; 10:32 ♦ (Vindobona)

During his official visit to Vienna, the newly elected President of the Czech Republic, Petr Pavel, met with Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen. Petr Pavel, once the highest NATO military officer, is a staunch supporter of Ukraine. But he is also keen on cooperation with neutral Austria.

Official visit of the President of the Czech Republic, Petr Pavel (r.), to Austria's President, Alexander Van der Bellen (l.). / Picture: © Österreichische Präsidentschaftskanzlei / Peter Lechner/HBF

In particular, the Czech president emphasized the Czech Republic's offer to supply military aircraft to Austria. At a joint press conference, Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen stated that both countries support Ukraine to the best of their abilities. He described the Austrian government's financial commitment to mine clearance as "progress."

Although the President of Austria would have considered assistance in the form of demining Ukraine compatible with Austrian neutrality, the federal government ultimately decided to provide financial support for 2 million euros. "The Czech Republic is doing extraordinary things," Alexander Van der Bellen said about military support for Ukraine and the reception of refugees from the country.

When asked about neutrality, President Pavel said it was not his place to judge. However, the former Czech chief of general staff noted that Austria condemned the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and was not neutral in terms of values. In the "broader global context," the Czech president said, smaller countries like Austria and the Czech Republic are also "players that can offer something" and "have something to say." They should "be more active."

The war in Ukraine has raised awareness that countries should take responsibility for their defense, he said. Investing in defense, he said, is "investing in the security of all of us. Therefore, we should look for opportunities for better cooperation in the defense industry." He mentioned the Czech Republic's offer to "modernize" air surveillance to the Austrian government. In 2018, the Czech Republic offered Austria L39-NG training jets made by Aero Vodochody, as well as pilot training.

Both heads of state praised bilateral relations, stressing that they have never been so good. Alexander Van der Bellen said, "I dare say bilateral relations have never been better." He added that trade exchange had reached a "historic level." The Czech Republic has now become Austria's most important trading partner in Central and Eastern Europe, he said. Austrian direct investments in the Czech Republic amount to almost 17 billion euros. The Federal President noted with surprise that the Czech Republic ranks fourth among all countries of origin of tourists.

Both presidents praised the cross-border cooperation in areas such as health care and police work. This cooperation could also serve as a model for other countries, Petr Pavel said. However, they also advocated improving transport links. President Pavel described this as a "long-distance run."

When asked about the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, Alexander Van der Bellen replied that Austria had decided early on not to build any nuclear power plants. The Federal President expressed his gratitude for the good exchange of information between Austrian and Czech experts regarding nuclear power.

Presidential Chancellery of Austria