Austria is aligned with the EU’s Russia policy, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said following the controversy of the Austrian foreign minister’s wedding that was attended by Vladimir Putin. Minister Karin Kneissl danced with Russian President at her wedding last weekend, triggering an outcry in some Austrian media outlets, which said she had undermined EU policy on Moscow. “Our position in Europe did not change because of a wedding,” Mr. Kurz explained. “Our foreign policy towards Russia is clear… We helped shape and are committed to all the European Union’s decisions.”
Brussels imposed punitive measures on the Kremlin following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Relations between both sides have been since then complicated. To demonstrate that his cabinet had pro-European intentions, Austrian Chancellor moved some EU-facing departments from the foreign ministry to his own office, He further stressed that he hoped to improve relations between Russia and the EU while his country is holding six-month presidency until the end of the year when it is expected to lead the bloc.
Chancellor Kurz also said he had discussed EU-Russian ties and other issues with his Russian counterpart during his short stay in Austria but he did not elaborate. However, unlike most Western EU member states, Vienna did not expel Russian diplomats following the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Austria’s presidency is centered around security and the fight against illegal immigration, maintaining Europe’s competitiveness through digitization and stability in Austria’s neighboring countries including works towards EU accession for Western Balkan countries.