Schrödinger’s cat appears to have recently wandered into the wing of the Vienna Hofburg, where the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meets. According to reports, the prospect of a federal government led by the FPÖ led to the failure to achieve what was never intended: Austria taking over the OSCE chairmanship. It is debatable whether the “kickl factor” is as important as the ÖVP depicted.
The debate was triggered by a report in the daily newspaper “Die Presse” (Wednesday edition) stating that some Western states were uneasy about the possibility of an OSCE presidency led by a “pro-Kremlin party”. ÖVP general secretary Christian Stocker stated that FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl damaged Austria’s international reputation, while his FPÖ counterpart Christian Hafenecker responded by referring to Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s (ÖVP) statements that there was no “interference” in Austria’s OSCE investigations. gave. Diplomats do not show a clear picture.
“Austria was not discussed in detail because the EU already had an acceptable alternative candidate,” the European OSCE state’s foreign ministry told APA on Wednesday. He pointed out that Russia initially engaged Austria as a neutral state, and Malta also fulfilled this condition.
An OSCE diplomat from another EU country made a similar statement. In his speech to the APA, he stressed that Austria had long ago declared its basic willingness to engage but was never an official candidate. The problem was solved when Malta became a candidate. “I don’t know if FPÖ’s participation in the government is a problem.” If asked, Austria would probably win if it were a candidate.
On the other hand, a non-EU diplomat said “some EU delegations” were informally discussing Austria’s possible OSCE chairmanship. This may also be related to Austria’s Schengen veto. “Romania was also not happy with this idea for bilateral reasons. But these were only informal talks,” the diplomat told APA. Since he did not participate in these discussions, he could not confirm whether FPÖ leader Kickl’s name was mentioned. “But there was a view that after the elections the government’s vision and approaches could change significantly. This was related to the potential role of the FPÖ.”
OSCE circles also told the APA that many states have approached Malta about taking over the presidency. This suggests that the attention of other member states is not entirely on Austria, which hosts the OSCE, having headed the security organization between 2000 and 2017.
Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) leaves no doubt that the possible appointment of Chancellor Herbert Kickl (FPÖ) harms Austria’s potential presidential ambitions. “Partners see the election calendar and polls. It becomes clear that Kickl-fpö casts a shadow and is a factor of uncertainty. All of Austria is paying the price,” he said. Annual meeting in Skopje, North Macedonia. “The FPÖ has already demonstrated its foreign policy amateurism in its trip to Afghanistan,” he added, referring to the Taliban trip led by former European MP Andreas Mölzer.
In an interview with journalists, Schallenberg praised the decision in favor of Malta as “a very nice and elegant solution”, but he did not exactly give the impression that he was happy that the presidential trophy did not pass him by – quite the opposite. He praised the importance of the OSCE as an organization where like-minded people meet. “This is diplomacy, this is what I stand for,” he said. It also announced a “condensed support package” for the future Maltese presidency, under which it wants to provide two to three experts as well as office space at the OSCE headquarters in Vienna.
However, OSCE circles said that the agreement regarding Malta was a surprise. By mid-year, it was still not believed that a solution would be found to the dispute over Estonia’s presidency. After all, the Baltic country announced its candidacy years ago and maintained its candidacy even after Russia vetoed it at the OSCE annual meeting in December 2022. Schallenberg also expressed his expectation that Estonia would not withdraw from its candidacy in an interview with the daily newspaper “Die Presse” a few days ago.
If Austria truly had presidential ambitions, their implementation might have failed due to a miscalculation. Observers state that Austria was ready to confront Estonia at the OSCE annual meeting, but stepped in as a provisional candidate at the last minute. However, this did not happen because the North Macedonian presidency pulled Malta out of the hat as an alternative candidate at the beginning of November and was later able to achieve this.
(Written by: Stefan Vospernik/APA, collaboration: Herwig Höller/APA)