Neutrality is “at the heart of Austrians,” Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP) said on Tuesday during a meeting with her EU counterparts in Brussels. Discussions included the war in Ukraine and aid options. Austria is not allowed to supply heavy weapons, but can provide medical assistance.
Medical facilities are currently being discussed. In addition, Austria has already supported Ukraine with protective equipment, Minister Klaudia Tanner said on Tuesday. At the meeting in Brussels, representatives of the EU countries want to exchange information via videoconference with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Resnikov and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The Ukrainian government hopes for more heavy weapons.
Neutrality only military, not political
According to Tanner, Austria cannot comply with this request because of its neutrality. Parliament is currently debating an Austrian security doctrine. “It needs to be talked about and discussed, that’s what’s going on right now.” However, neutrality is seen more in military than political terms. “We have military neutrality, but politically we are certainly a partner as part of the Western value society,” said the new EU military committee chairman Robert Brieger. Regardless of this status under international law, the military enters into partnerships and alliances. “Valuable contributions” would be made to crisis management.
Regarding NATO membership, the situation for Austria is “constitutionally very clear,” Tanner said. It is the decision of each individual state, such as Sweden and Finland, to join an alliance.
Mission in Mali
Another item on the agenda is the situation in Mali, West Africa, about which EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell wants to provide information. Recently, the EU had scaled down its EUTM mission there, which also involves Austrian soldiers. She trained the Malian troops only in legal matters. The fact that Russian mercenaries, the so-called “Wagner” group, and the military are now active in Mali has sparked criticism. According to Tanner, Austria will remain in command until June 21, after which it will go to the Czech Republic. The situation with the group “Wagner” is monitored. The protection of the soldiers has the highest priority.
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