Thank you for inviting me, dear Alexander,
It’s a great honor to address you today. I take it as a sign of Austria’s respect not only for me personally but also for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
I have said on many occasions that in a situation of aggression, mass atrocities, and genocide, there is no place for neutrality. However, neutrality may be different. Some countries use neutrality as an excuse, they pretend to be neutral because they simply don’t care or don’t want to take action. Austria’s case is completely different.
Since February 2022, Austria has demonstrated that neutrality does not mean indifference. On the contrary, neutrality can be active, compassionate, and morally right. As Alexander said, military neutrailty does not mean political neutrality. Austria has proven that a country can be neutral but take a clear side at the same time. Furthermore, a neutral country is the one most interested in upholding international law and order, protecting international peace, and the UN Charter. Because if those don’t work, who or what is going to protect that country?
Russia attacked not only Ukraine but also the very foundation of international law and our shared principles of humanity. The choice could not be clearer in this situation. Supporting Ukraine means supporting the UN Charter and common rules.
I thank Austria for doing exactly that. Austria joined EU sanctions on Russia and took an active part in implementing the Peace Formula. Austria has provided financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in a total volume of over 340 million euros. You joined President Zelenskyy’s humanitarian “Grain from Ukraine'' program. And I encourage you to do it again at the second Grain from Ukraine summit this November.
7,7 million euros within the European civilian protection mechanism. Welcoming Ukrainians who were forced to flee the war. Strong support for our energy infrastructure last winter when Russian missile strikes aimed to plunge our people into the cold and darkness. 2 million euros for humanitarian mine clearance. Support in overcoming the consequences of Russia’s ruining of the Kakhovka dam. Financing for the prosecution of Russian atrocities by the International Criminal Court. Working together with us on establishing the Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine. Austria also took a clear stand for a just and lasting peace, both on the national level and within the UN General Assembly.
What’s most important is that not only the Austrian government but also Austrian citizens and businesses took the Ukrainian side.
Following Russia’s full-scale invasion, not a single Austrian company has pulled out of Ukraine. Despite the war, Austrian companies keep working in our country. They care for their Ukrainian employees and assist the Austrian government in providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
One of such businesses is the legendary Austrian “FISHER”. The company has not only remained in Ukraine but also expanded its operations and investments. Such leadership is an example for other foreign businesses. It’s also a sign of hope and relief for the Ukrainian people.
All of these examples show that neutrality does not mean indifference. I sincerely thank Austria, your government, businesses, and all Austrians who stand with Ukraine at this watershed moment in European history.
The war continues. It takes an extremely high toll. Russian defenses are tough. But Ukrainian forces are tougher. They are steadily but persistently moving forward. We have already partially broken through Russian defensive lines in the south and will keep liberating our land.
No country in the world wants peace more than Ukraine. But some wars are not just conflicts or territorial disputes. They are genocidal wars of aggression that cannot be ended by simply bringing belligerent parties to the table for negotiations. Russia’s war on Ukraine is exactly such a case. It needs to be won on the battlefield before Russia becomes serious about negotiating peace.
This war is a case when simply ceasing fire will not cease the aggression. Freezing the conflict now would only give Russia a respite that it will use to replenish its forces and prepare a new, even more devastating attack. Instead, we need a just and lasting peace, according to President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula and in line with the UN Charter.
Everyone repeats the same line, a just and lasting peace. What “just” really means in this cliché is the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. “Lasting” means that Russia will not be able to stage another attack on Ukraine and the rest of Europe.
I thank you for realizing the need for such a just and lasting peace in Ukraine. We count on the power of Austrian diplomacy and Austria’s authoritative political voice to persuade other countries to take a principled stance. For instance, we have a great friendship with Alexander and we have achieved many results by working together. I am confident that Austrian and Ukrainian diplomats around the world can also join their forces in promoting crucially important initiatives, such as the Peace Formula, Special tribunal, accountability, food security, and others.
As a neutral country, Austria has a special influence in this regard over countries outside Europe, especially in Asia and South America. Austria's diplomatic weight has always been significant in those regions due to the active presence of Austrian businesses. I call on both Austrian diplomacy and business circles to help us promote the truth about Russian aggression and ways to real peace in those regions.
We also count on continued humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. There are many areas where Austria can help without providing lethal military aid. From expanding the already existing assistance in humanitarian mine clearance to providing armored medevacs to save lives.
Ukraine’s recovery is another area where the Austrian government and businesses are welcome to take part. Providing insurance coverage for investment projects in Ukraine would help streamline this process and we count on relevant steps to be taken.
It would also be fair to use frozen Russian assets for Ukraine’s recovery and Austria can drive this process forward. It seems pretty obvious to me that Russia and Russian oligarchs must pay for the damage they caused, not Austrian or any other Western taxpayers.
Throughout history, there have been many instances when Russia and Austria cooperated and formed alliances. This has shaped special ties and understanding. However, the modern Russia under Putin has nothing to do with the former past. It’s an aggressive revanchist power that aims to destroy Europe and harm European nations, including Austria. Today’s Russia is Europe’s biggest enemy.
At the same time, this war has brought Austria and Ukraine closer. You can count on Ukraine not only as a defender of Europe, but also as a trusted political partner. From European matters to the UN General Assembly or relations with countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America — we are ready to work together. I want to be sure that when you look at the east, you see a friend and a reliable partner there, Ukraine.
We are confident that Ukraine’s victory will not only restore peace and stability in Europe. It will also form a new Europe as such. The one with Ukraine as its integral part. We expect Austria to continue its support on Ukraine’s path to joining the EU. We aim at opening EU accession talks already this year and we count on Austria’s authoritative voice in making this a reality after the European Commission presents its conclusions. We will also rely on the practical assistance and advise of Austrian diplomats once the accession talks begin.
History does not simply happen, it is being made by people, businesses, and governments. It is only upon us to decide which kind of history we want to forge. If that is one of peace, freedom, and respect to human life, then we can and must work together. Austria has proven that a neutral country can be very active in such efforts. I am sure this example will prompt many other countries around the globe to follow Austria’s lead.
I once again thank you for your attention and wishing all of you a resultative new diplomatic season this autumn.