On June 24 President Vladimir Putin wound up his visit to Austria – the second trip abroad after the situation in Ukraine took a turn for the worse. He went to Normandy in early June to take part in the 70th Anniversary of D-Day commemoration. The launching of the «the second front» delivered a powerful blow against the US-led anti-Russian European alliance. The summit in Austria laid a foundation for Russia’s further economic cooperation with Western partners.
Mr. Putin had a broad range of issues to discuss with President Heinz Fischer, Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann and Austrian businessmen. The situation in Ukraine and South Stream dominated the agenda. It’s an open secret that many Western leaders perceive these issues as intertwined. The United States and the European Union have recently intensified efforts to stymie the Russia’s South Stream plans. As a result, Bulgaria has already stopped the pipeline’s construction; the government of Serbia also has this issue on its agenda. Sergei Lavrov has met his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic. The both confirmed the intent to proceed with the construction in accordance with the reached agreements. (1)
Under the circumstances the time is right for those EU members who understand the importance of cooperation with Russia to raise their voices and say the issue is too vital to make it depend on foreign policy fluctuations. Austria is the one. President Fischer defended the South Stream project stating that «no one can tell me why… a gas pipeline that crosses NATO and EU states can't touch 50 kilometers (31 miles) of Austrian territory». According to him, the project is expedient and useful. If Austria is to be rebuked for participation then Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and a range of European companies are also to come under the criticism. (2)
Amid the rising tensions over the issue OMV general director Gerhard Roiss said the implementation of South Stream pipeline project should be expedited. (4) According to him, it would «ensure energy security for Europe, particularly for Aus-tria». The South Stream gas pipeline could become an exception from the EU pipeline requirements, Gerhard Roiss, CEO of the Austrian company OMV, told the WirtschaftsBlatt financial daily on June 23. «Clearly, everything must be done in accordance with European law but there can be exceptions», he said. Roiss believes that the European Union should discuss such exceptions with Russia’s Gazprom and that negotiations on the project should be accelerated not put on hold. Some time ago Austria kept away from participation in the project. Now it is trying to catch up. The problem is familiar. Austria remembers the winter of 2008-2009. (5) The country’s business is traditionally willing to take part in many ventures. Alexey Miller, Chairman of Gazprom and Gerhard Roiss, CEO of OMV inked a Shareholders Agreement for the South Stream Austria joint project company during the visit. The Agreement envisages the parties' cooperation while constructing the Austrian section of the South Stream gas pipeline with the annual capacity of 30 to 32 bcm running from the Hungarian border to the end point in Baumgarten.
Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said the document, specifies an array of administrative matters, such as the compa-ny’s structure, management and profit sharing. (6)
Just 20 hours before the visit started the parties signed over twenty agreements of different kinds. Diamond Aircraft Industries CEO Christian Dries told it plainly addressing the politicians in Brussels. Commenting on the breakthrough in economic relationship with Russia, he said that sanctions are a wrong policy. Partners should sit at the round table and discuss the problems together. Especially once the cooperation with Russia is so intense. At last month's Paris airshow, Rostech announced a tie-up with Austria's Diamond Aircraft to start production of a new 19-seat utility plane intended for local air services in Russia.
Gerfried Thuer, Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group, said it’s all politics, but business needs dialogue, so we support fruitful cooperation with the Russian partners. (7)
Talking about Ukraine, the time has come for a greater role of leading international organizations. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is certainly one of them. It’s widely believed that its role has greatly diminished recently mainly limited by surveillance of national elections in different countries. Off and on it has demonstrated preconceived and biased attitudes. The Security Organization has failed to prevent or tackle the crisis sparked in Ukraine. Fierce fighting was raging in the east of Ukraine while the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was as usual concentrated on something that could hardly be considered to be serious business under the circumstances. For instance, it was pretty busy arranging round tables and experts meetings good for breeze shooting and exchanging long-winded speeches destitute of substance.
Didier Burkhalter, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, has to face hard questions about the effectiveness and credibility of the or-ganization he heads. «Our direct contact and dialogue is very important», he said meeting President Putin in Austria. The OSCE Chairperson considers it necessary to make at least some progress on the way of finding solutions to the issue of Ukraine in the next several days, reports RIA Novosti. «Right now we are in a very delicate phase and it is necessary that in the next few days for us to find at least some of the solutions, and I hope that all parties will make a contribution to it», Burkhalter said at a meeting with the head of Russia. (8)
No way could the West tackle the problems of Ukraine without Russia. It’s worth to note that on June 23 the EU Council failed to make any decisions to tighten sanctions against it. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands Franz Timmermans said on arrival at the meeting of foreign ministers of the European Union, «The decisions on sanctions will not make today», he said. (9) The European Union evidently needs a pause to think over the further actions.
Russia is frustrated with the European Union and what it does. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a special statement devoted to the anniversary of Russia-EU Partner-ship and Cooperation Agreement that states that the Euro-pean Union, current policy undermines the strategic nature of the partnership. It’s a pity the European Union has decided to suspend the efforts to reach a founding Russia-EU agreement instead of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The work on preparing a document designed to cement ties mutually beneficial for the citizens and business circles of Russia and the European Union was suspended to the detriment of strategic in-terests of the whole Europe. (10)
The reasons for this policy are well known. Some circles in Brussels try to play an «anti-Russian» card at the time the European Union is unable to refuse the role of obedient junior partner of the United States. It’s time to make conclusions for EU hopefuls…