Ukraine Crisis Media Center continues a series of Skype-conferences within common project of UCMC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine “Diplomacy without borders”. On February 1st we had conversation with Oleksandr Scherba, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in Austria.
Austria follows events in Ukraine and will continue to support Ukraine on the international level in countering Russian aggression. “Ukraine remains a focus of attention. You may have doubt about this when looking at hashtags in Austrian Twitter, however, it is absolutely clear for Austrian experts and politicians that the future of Europe depends on the outcome of this war,” said Oleksandr Scherba.
Oleksandr Scherba mentioned that yesterday he had meetings in Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Parliament to discuss escalation in Avdiivka. One more meeting will take place today. “Austria holds the OSCE Chairmanship and says that their response will follow through this mechanism,” he added.
There is regular dialogue on the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria Sebastian Kurz had already two visits to Ukraine in January. His Ukrainian colleague Pavlo Klimkin had three visits to Austria last year. During this year the countries expect to extend dialogue on the level of Chancellor and President. According to Oleksandr Scherba, the victory of pro-European candidate Alexander Van der Bellen in presidential election is a very positive signal both for Austria and Europe and for Ukraine.
Sanction against Russia: is there harm for Austrian economy?
Austria is very likely to continue sanctions against Russia. “Statistics shows that sanctions had no significant negative impact on Austrian economy. According to the latest statistics, the country’s GDP grew by 1,5 per cent in 2016 and became a positive record of the last five years,” noted Mr. Scherba. “A number of businesses were seriously affected, however, these are isolated cases.” Meanwhile, small entrepreneurs often believe that sanctions resulted in significant losses for the economy.
Austria is among the biggest investors into Ukrainian economy
According to Oleksandr Scherba, Austria is the 5th biggest investor into Ukrainian economy. Raiffeisen Bank Aval and UNIQA insurance company are the biggest companies with Austrian capital. Nearly 60 per cent of sausage produced in Ukraine contains Austrian spices.
The first year of Free Trade Agreement in action did not result in significant growth of trade between the countries. However, trade volume is expected to grow by 20 per cent next year.
Four big groups of Ukrainian children from the frontline area had holidays in Austria last year. These trips were funded by governments of Austrian states. “This year we expect at least four groups of children. […] In one of them there will be children from both sides of the contact line,” added Oleksandr Scherba. A number of wounded Ukrainian soldiers also underwent treatment and rehabilitation, this project was funded by Raiffeisen Bank.