New Austrian govt will try to more cooperate with V4 group - Brix |

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New Austrian govt will try to more cooperate with V4 group - Brix

New Austrian govt will try to more cooperate with V4 group - Brix

The Austrian government that will be formed after the Sunday early general election will try to have closer relations with Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia that form the Visegrad Group (V4), Diplomatic Academy of Vienna director Emil Brix has told CTK.

The V4 countries and Austria would gain more influence on the decision making in the European Union if they joined forces, said Brix, who was the Austrian ambassador to London (2010-15) and Moscow (2015-17).

He said the opportunity to push through the influence of Central Europe is ideal at present, given the uncertainty around Brexit and the euro zone development without a common economic policy.

But he said closer cooperation with the above four postcommunist countries would certainly be opposed by the Austrian public and the media, most of which are liberal.  "A big step towards membership of the Visegrad Four is not on the horizon now," he said.

The Austrian-Czech relations will continue to be complicated also because of the different stances on nuclear power, especially if the Greens become part of the government, Brix said.

Nevertheless, a new Austrian government including the Greens and the New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) might try to settle the nuclear energy dispute with the Czech Republic, he said. The Temelin nuclear power plant, which is situated close to the nuclear-free Austria, is the biggest source of electricity in the Czech Republic. Czechs plan to enlarge the plant.

The previous government of Sebastian Kurz (Austrian People's Party, OVP) took the first steps to get closer to the V4 as he realised that Austria has no permanent allies in the EU, Brix said. But unfortunately the right-wing nationalist Freedom Party (FPO), which was part of Kurz's government, started dealing with the issue, and both the political opposition and the Austrian public reacted negatively to it, he said.

The liberal media condemned the idea of making deals with somebody who they said did not understand democracy, he pointed out, adding that the criticism aimed mainly at Hungary and Poland.

Brix said the new Austrian government would have to overcome an "imperial" dismissiveness with which Austria negotiated with the neighbouring states of the former Habsburg monarchy that fell 100 years ago.

Prague or Ljubljana are still afraid that Austria wants to dominate in the bilateral relations, Brix said. Another problem is that Poland does not show high interest in cooperation with Austria, he said.

If Kurz becomes prime minister again, which opinion polls indicated, he will keep pursuing a more active but also far more critical European policy, he said. Kurz promoted the subsidiarity principle, in other words, a lower interference of the EU bodies in all issues that can be dealt with regionally.

Brix said he did not expect the policy concerning Russia to significantly change. He said Russia is interested in good relations with Austria because it considers Austria an important player in the forming of the EU policy towards Russia.

The next Austrian government will also want to play the role of a bridge between the EU and Russia, Brix said. He said foreign policy played almost no role in the political campaign before the Sunday elections. "It seemed to me that we turned into an island," he told CTK. He said parties decided not to speak about foreign policy because the citizens do not consider foreign affairs important.

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