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Foreign Minister Schallenberg Attends Informal Meeting of Foreign Ministers in Prague

AUSTRIA, August 29 - On 30 and 31 August, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg participated in an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague (known as a Gymnich). Once again, the talks centred around the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and its global impact; among other things, the ministers discussed a general travel ban for Russian citizens within the European Union, which Austria sees critically.

For me, it is important that we support the people in Russia who do not agree with Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression, rather than abandoning them. I believe ‘locking out’ an entire country of more than 140 million people would be counterproductive. A blanket ban on visas for citizens of the Russian Federation would completely cut off our last contacts with the Russian civilian population. Critical voices in Russia, particularly those of a young, aspiring generation, should not be blocked from coming to the West. What is needed here is rationality and proportionality,

explained Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. In this context, he warned against fanning the flames of the Russian siege mentality.

In advance of the meeting of EU foreign ministers, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also reiterated Austria’s commitment to the EU sanctions against Russia, whose effects are already being felt. However, he noted that strategic patience and strong nerves would be needed:

Sanctions do not have an instant impact, but they work in the medium and long term. The previous seven sanction packages directly affect 1,200 private individuals associated with the Russian regime as well as 100 entities. Let us not fall into the trap of the Russian narrative and disinformation – the Russian economy is sliding into a recession. It will shrink by at least six percent this year, and inflation in Russia is much higher than in Austria, for instance. Entire industrial sectors are lying fallow,

stated Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

The agenda also included a discussion with the foreign ministers of the EU candidate countries Moldova and Ukraine, as well as of the applicant country of Georgia, in order to signal to them that their place – assuming all the requirements are fulfilled – is within the European community of values. This European perspective is intended to counteract destabilising tendencies in the affected regions. Relations between the European Union and the African continent, which is particularly hard-hit by the global food crisis triggered by the Russian war of aggression, were also discussed:

The Russian war of aggression is also a war of narratives. It is being fought on the European continent, but it is by no means an exclusively European war,

said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg during the Gymnich meeting.

The name of this informal meeting, which has been held during each Council presidency since 1974 – in other words, twice a year – comes from a German castle that served as its first venue. In an informal setting, the EU foreign ministers are able to develop long-term strategies.