Almost two months after their visit to the Ukrainian front, the foreign ministers of Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have again traveled close to the conflict zone. Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP), Jan Lipavský and Ivan Korčok supported Moldova on Friday in Chisinau, which feels hugely threatened by Russian aggression in neighboring Ukraine. Schallenberg announced Austrian millions in aid to the ex-Soviet republic.
“You are not alone and you can count on our solidarity,” emphasized Schallenberg at a joint press conference with his colleagues and Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu. “The leadership in Moscow does not only focus its eyes on Ukraine. She also has her eyes set on other countries such as Moldova,” Schallenberg warned. Like his colleagues, he clearly recognized the territorial integrity of the ex-Soviet republic and emphasized his support towards the EU.
Five million euros for refugee aid
“We didn’t come empty-handed,” Schallenberg said. Austria is making €5 million available this year for refugee aid in the country. The money would have to come from the Foreign Disaster Fund (AKF) special endowment, which the federal government had announced as doubling private donations as part of its “Neighbours in Need” campaign. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said, the decision of the Council of Ministers must be taken in April.
In addition, the Austrian budget for development aid for Moldova will be increased from three to five million euros in 2022. The focus is on absorbing price increases and the failure of the agricultural supply chain due to the war in Ukraine. Moldova has been a priority country for Austrian development cooperation since 2004. Between 1995 and 2020, 62 million euros in development cooperation funds flowed into the country.
Even before the war, Moldova had to contend with enormous increases in energy prices. Even under Russian pressure, the gas price rose by 135 percent within a year, according to information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom threatens to completely stop deliveries on May 1.
Moscow also has its hand on Moldova’s electricity switch, as 80 percent of the electricity consumed in the country comes from a power plant in the pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria, which sits on the left bank of the Dniester River directly on Ukraine’s border is . It is feared that the Russian soldiers stationed there could be used in the war in Ukraine.
Moldova is also heavily burdened by the refugee movement as a result of the war. According to the UN, nearly 390,000 people fled from Ukraine to its western neighbor at the end of March and nearly 100,000 remained there. This corresponds to about four percent of the country’s population. Austria has offered Moldova to host up to 2,000 refugees. 313 people have already flown out in three flights and the next flight with about 110 people is scheduled for Saturday.
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