MOSCOW, June 5. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will conduct on Tuesday a working visit to Austria, during which it will discuss key issues of bilateral and international agenda. The event is timed to the 50th anniversary of the exports of domestic gas to Austria.
This will be the first foreign visit of Putin after his inauguration on may 7 in the position in the current presidential term.
As reported a press-service of the Kremlin, during the visit of the Russian leader planned “to discuss the state and prospects of Russian-Austrian relations in various fields and to exchange views on key issues on the international agenda.”
In interview of broadcasting company ORF on the eve of his visit, Putin noted that the two countries have traditionally good relations. “Austria has over the years developed very good and close relationship. Austria is traditionally our trusted partner in Europe. In recent years our dialogue has not been broken, despite the difficulties, no political dialogue or dialogue in the field of security and economic issues,” – said the Russian President.
Schedule of the visit
Upon arrival to Vienna, Putin will first negotiate with the Federal President of Austria Alexander van der Bellekom, the results of which scheduled press conference, and then with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, following which the leaders will make statements to the media. Also, along with Kurtz and the Russian President will communicate with the participants of the business forum, organized by Russian-Austrian business Council.
“In the evening there will also be a visit by our President together with the Austrian leaders of the exhibition “Paintings by old masters from the Hermitage”, to be held in Vienna Museum of art history”, – told reporters the Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov. In the autumn the exhibition will be held in the State Hermitage.
In addition, during the visit, Putin will traditionally lay a wreath at the monument in honor of Soviet soldiers who died liberating Vienna, in Schwarzenbergplatz.
According to Ushakov, Austria is one of the closest partners of the Russian Federation in the spheres of economy and politics. Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation noted that from 1 July Austria for six months will be chairing the EU authorities, “and from this point of view, the negotiations will be interesting.” Among international issues, the leaders of Russia and Austria will be discussed, including a settlement in Syria and Ukraine, Ushakov added.
As Putin said in an interview with the Austrian broadcasting company ORF on the eve of his visit to Vienna, in Russia “there is no purpose for someone to divide the EU.” “On the contrary, we are interested in a United and prosperous European Union because the EU is our major economic and trading partner,” – said the Russian leader.
In turn, the Federal Chancellor of Austria in an exclusive interview with first Deputy Director General of TASS Mikhail Gusman, published on June 3, said he intends to discuss with the Russian leader bilateral relations and strengthening economic ties and relations between EU and Russia. “We would like to contribute to the improvement of relations between the European Union and Russia. I believe an important step in this direction could be a viable truce in the East of Ukraine”, – said Kurz. “To me it seems a good tool that will further strengthen the cooperation between Russia and the European Union and bring it to the same level, and ideally to direct these relations in the right, win-win course,” he added.
As noted by the Austrian Chancellor, Vienna with Moscow in recent decades had a well-established communication channel, the communication was open and dialogue is successful. “I think it is luck that we have such a strong Foundation for dialogue. We want to use it in order to overcome the antagonisms, with the new power rising on the continent, because we are sincerely interested in the interaction of the European Union and Russia,” said Kurtz.
In turn, the Vice-Chancellor and Minister for civil service Affairs and sports of Austria Heinz-Christian strache in an interview with Sunday newspaper Österreich said the European Union it’s time to rethink relations with Russia, “after the sanctions primarily hurt the Austrian economy”. He is confident that the EU should demonstrate an adequate response to customs duties on US steel and aluminum, and use the current situation to establish relations with Russia. “I always warned against in order to give Russia into the hands of China. It is time to stop the ill-fated sanctions and normalize political and economic relations with Russia”, – said the Vice-Chancellor of Austria in response to the question whether the EU to change its position towards Russia in the light of new developments in the relations with the USA.
Communication at the highest level
Earlier Putin visited Austria as President four times on a working visit in 2001, in 2004 to participate in the funeral of President Thomas Klestil, and official visits in 2007 and 2014.
With the current Federal Chancellor of Austria the President of the Russian Federation held talks during the visit of Sebastian Kurz to Moscow on 28 February of the current year. Meeting with current Federal President of Austria, occupying the post from January 2017, Putin will be the first, however, the Russian leader met with Alexander van der Bellena in Vienna in 2001, when he was Chairman of the Green party.
Half a century thread
The visit is timed to the 50th anniversary of the beginning of gas exports from the USSR to Austria (the first long-term contract was concluded on 1 Jun 1968, and deliveries began in September of the same year). Austria was the first West European country to sign such a long-term contract with the Soviet Union, currently Austria it imports from Russia about 60% of the necessary gas. In total for half a century in Austria were exported over 200 billion cubic meters of Russian gas in 2017, the Republic imported a record volume of 9.1 billion cubic meters, which is 50.3 per cent more than in 2016 (6.1 billion cubic meters). From January to may of 2018, Gazprom has supplied Austria is approximately 4.9 billion cubic meters of gas, which was 68% higher than the same period last year.
As noted Ushakov, for 50 years the two countries ‘ cooperation in the gas sector were “very smoothly and without failures”, never was in demand spelled out in the contract the dispute settlement mechanism. “Austria is not only a big consumer of our gas, but also an important transit hub for other countries of Western Europe, – has noticed the assistant to the Russian leader. – In fact, our two countries joint efforts ensure the energy security of the European continent”.
The current agreement between “Gazprom export” and the Austrian oil and gas group OMV on the supply is valid until 2027. Today in the field of energy the most important is the project of “Gazprom” on the construction of the pipeline “Nord stream – 2” (involves the expansion of existing trunk pipeline “Nord stream”, linking Russia and Germany under the Baltic sea). OMV, along with other West European companies involved in it as an investor.
Ushakov also said that the Russian and Austrian parties is currently preparing a supplementary agreement on cooperation between Gazprom and OMV until 2040. “The document is now in the finishing stage,” said the aide, adding that we are talking about gas supplies.
Trade and economic relations
According to the Federal customs service of Russia, in 2013, before the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions and retaliatory countermeasures of Russia, the volume of bilateral trade between Russia and Austria was $5.1 billion Then this figure has decreased significantly, however, as noted Ushakov, now the negative trend is overcome: the bilateral trade volume grew in 2017 by 40.5% to $4.1 billion in the first quarter of 2018, the growth was even more intense: the trade turnover was 99% more than in the same period last year. Thus, concluded the representative of the Kremlin there is a “line on the full restoration of ties.”
Accumulated Russian investments in the Austrian economy approximately $24 billion, Austria has invested in Russia about $5 billion In may 2018, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said that “in the Russian territory currently has about 500 companies from Austria, and since the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions restrictions, no company left the Russian market.”
In Austria itself is also positive about economic contacts between the two countries. “We are pleased with how well our relationship at the moment”, underlined Sebastian Kurz in an interview with TASS. The Chancellor drew attention to the growth of the tourist flow from Russia, noting that “the number of Russians who visited Austria for the last year, clearly exceeded 1 million people.” “As a Republic, we are also pleased that Russian citizens spend their holidays with us,” – said the politician.
How said Ushakov, one of the items on the agenda of Putin’s talks in Vienna will become a construction project with Russian broad gauge (1520 mm) railway košice – Vienna. “We already discussed this topic during his visit Kurtz in Moscow (in February), and now also will be the sentence is the really important topic – the perspective of the project construction of broad gauge railway košice – Vienna with the participation of several countries: Russia, Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine,” – said the assistant to the President. According to him, “while this theme is in an early stage of development,” but “it’s such a catchy, interesting project and discussion on this will continue during the visit”.
In February 2018, Russian Railways and “Austrian Railways” signed an Addendum to the cooperation agreement from 2011, aimed at promoting cooperation on third markets. At the same time work was completed on the feasibility study of the project of the railway košice – Vienna.
According to Ushakov, during Putin’s visit to Vienna will be signed several bilateral documents: Protocol on amendments to Russian-Austrian Convention for the avoidance of double taxation with respect to taxes on income and on capital; the Memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of economic development of Russia and the Federal Ministry for transport, innovation and technology of Austria on cooperation in the field of innovation; the Memorandum of understanding between the Federal forestry Agency and the Federal Ministry for sustainable tourism development of Austria, as well as two regional agreements that will be signed by the governors of Novgorod and Lipetsk regions.