Politics For Members

EXPLAINED: Why Austria won't allow Ukraine's Zelensky to speak before parliament

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected] • 9 Apr, 2022 Updated Sat 9 Apr 2022 11:09 CEST
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Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen (R) and his wife Doris Schmidauer (L) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (2ndR) and his wife Olena Zelenska (2ndL) listen to the national anthems in Vienna, Austria on September 15, 2020, during a welcoming ceremony at the beginning of Zelensky's state visit. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

A proposal by liberal party NEOS to invite Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to make a speech to the Austrian parliament has brought back old neutrality feuds.


The German Bundestag, US Congress, European Parliament, the Israeli Knesset and Westminster.

The list of parliamentary houses where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has (remotely) spoken is impressive. So why is the Austrian parliament, or its Nationalrat chamber, not among them?

This Tuesday, liberal party NEOS posted on its social media that it wanted to "allow the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to speak in the National Council". They then said:

"However, our proposal did not receive the approval of the SPÖ and FPÖ. This mistaken idea of neutrality leaves us wondering!"

Austrian neutrality

The right-wing party FPÖ was quick to make an announcement stating that Austrian neutrality is "an achievement that we are rightfully proud of", according to a social media post.

The party presented a five-point document to preserve Austrian neutral status, which included "mediating instead of sanctioning" and "a no-fly and no-transport zone" in the country.

Party leader Herbert Kickl justified the rejection of a Zelensky appearance, saying that they would also be against a speech by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why isn’t Austria in NATO?

The issue of Austrian neutrality has been highly debated recently, as Russia invaded Ukraine and several talks began arising regarding Austria's role in such a conflict and in sanctions against the Russians.


Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) had to come out and state that discussions on Austria's status were not needed at the moment and that Austria was, is, and would remain neutral.

SPÖ 'not against it'

SPÖ said that statements that it had been against an invitation for Zelensky to talk to parliament were false. In a press release, the centre-left party noted that there was a "short political discussion" on the subject last week, with no vote or decision.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The history behind Austria’s neutrality

The party stated that, during the discussion, it "pointed out that Austria's neutral status must be taken into account", adding that such a status could be of great advantage when it comes to acting as an intermediary.

Finally, the SPÖ added that it wouldn't oppose such an invitation.

"One thing is clear: Austria strongly condemns the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine by the Putin regime because Austria is never neutral towards the violation of international law and human rights".


'He said, she said'

While the SPÖ statement said Neos's claim was false, the liberal party called the latest red press release "an obvious change of heart".

"Now that almost all parties seem to be in favour of a Zelensky speech, we propose a special meeting next week, during which it could take place", according to the liberals.

READ ALSO: Ukraine conflict: Would NATO protect non-member Austria?

Traditionally, an invitation can only be issued by the National Council president, currently ÖVP politician Wolfgang Sobotka. However, he told APA today he would only invite the Ukrainian president to speak with Parliament if there were agreements between the different groups of parliamentarians.

How much of an agreement, considering that the FPÖ has not had a 'change of heart', is not certain. 



Amanda Previdelli 2022/04/09 11:09

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