Fischer defends Putin's Austrian visit
President Heinz Fischer defended Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Vienna at the end of June as well as the planned South Stream gas pipeline.
To again nominate Johannes Hahn from the conservative People's Party (VPÖ) as Austrian EU Commissioner would be "good" Fischer said on state broadcaster ORF television on Sunday. There would be better chances if Hahn was nominated earlier, Fischer said. Furthermore he said that if the government had waited too long with a decision this would have created "insecurity".
Each country within the European Union has the right to appoint its own candidate. Several Austrian members of the European Parliament from the People's Party (ÖVP), the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Greens had wanted a female candidate for the job as European Commissioner.
Asked about Putin's visit to Vienna, Fischer said that a "strategic partnership" between Europe and Russia would be "necessary". The Estonian President Hendrik Ilves had criticized whilst he was visited by Fischer that Russia could "never be a strategic partner". According to Fischer this statement was made due to historical reasons.
Instead of that Fischer emphasized that Putin's visit could serve as a "small contribution" to solve the conflict in Ukraine. It was Putin's first visit to a EU country since the crisis in Ukraine had erupted. Fischer said that he was "content" with Putin's internationally criticized visit.
Furthermore he said that Austria wanted to keep "all channels of dialogue" open. It was necessary to close the borders between Russia and Ukraine, to stop the violence and keep looking for a non-military solution.
Moreover he rejected criticism concerning the deal between the Austrian oil and gas company OMV and the Russian gas giant Gasprom which signed a contract for the Austrian portion of the South Stream pipeline, which will transport gas from Russia to Austria while circumventing Ukraine. It would "not be clever" to miss "such an opportunity". Besides that the pipeline would also lead through NATO states, he added.
His planned visit to Iran was "acceptable" for Fischer who referred to existing diplomatic relations. He would not play a lone hand, Fischer clarified that his visit was coordinated with the Austrian government.