On 9 June 2017, Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs Michael Linhart welcomed Belarussian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko to Vienna for political consultations. The talks spanned the entire range of the intense bilateral relations between Austria und Belarus, in particular, the two countries’ collaboration in international organisations, trade and investment as well as the 25-year anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations.
In light of the Eastern Partnership summit (EU und 6 partner countries) that will take place on 24 November 2017 in Brussels, forging closer ties between the EU and Belarus was high on the agenda. “It is in the interest of Austria and the EU for Belarus to adhere to European standards and values. This is the only way to ensure that the EU’s closest neighbours can draw economic, political and societal benefits and can contribute to stability. It is not in our interest to maintain incomplete relations with our neighbouring countries”, said Linhart. “This, however, also does not entail an “either or” policy. The six countries that belong to the European Union’s Eastern Partnership play an important role in building bridges between the EU and other countries. The EU’s closest neighbours are among Austria’s foreign policy priorities.” In this context, the existing death penalty in Belarus was also a topic of discussion.
The worldwide abolition of the death penalty is Austria’s foremost foreign policy aim. I shared our position with Deputy Foreign Minister Kravchenko and especially pressed for a moratorium on the death penalty. Only once the death penalty has been abolished will it be possible to completely normalise relations between the EU and Belarus,
said Linhart. He also expressed Austria’s concerns about the Belarussian nuclear power plant Ostrovets, which is currently under construction.
The morning saw Linhart and Kravchenko open the panel discussion “Beyond the Emergency: Improving the International Response to Large Movements of People”. Held in Vienna, this high-level event is a jointly organised by the Central European Initiative (CEI) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).