Austria’s Kurz ready to contribute to EU-Belarus thaw

A monument to Austrian victims of Nazism in the memorial complex Trastsyanets was opened on March, 28. Was it the only purpose of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s visit to Belarus?

Earlier, when being Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria, Kurz promised to improve relations between Belarus and the European Union. Will it help Minsk and is there much of Austrian investment in Belarus?

The Austrian company Voest-Alpine contributed to the establishment of Zhlobin Metallurgical Plant which is a showpiece of Belarusian industry. The Austrians own all the shares of Belarusian mobile network operator Velcom, a generous sponsor of cultural and sporting events.

“Austria pushed for the lifting of sanctions against Russia. Even in Soviet times, Austria managed to develop business relations with the USSR. We know about its investing in Belarus, i.e. we are aware of this country’s special position in the policy towards non-democratic countries,” Belarusian political analyst Ales Lahvinets said.

One-third of the Kupala insurance company’s capital is Austria’s. Belarus has become the second country (after Russia), where the largest Austrian wood processing company Kronospan came to. Austria’s Investment in Belarus exceeded one billion dollars. Belarus’ Priorbank is a daughter of Raffeisenbank through which the Austrian holiday of Alyaksandr Lukashenka (who was then banned from entering the EU) was paid 17 years ago.

“The West is eager to bring Belarus from the tutelage of Russia, to weaken their relations, to strengthen its influence. But Merkel, for example, cannot arrive, as Belarus is a totalitarian country,” Belarusian economist Leanid Zaika explains.

Selling their products to Belarus and blinking at the political image of the country is the essence of Austria’s position. And Lukashenka’s guest will not give any account of his visit.

“Lukashenka is taking advantage of Vienna’s line which is not hard enough. At the moment, he needs contacts with the West, but he is looking for partners who will not raise the bar when it comes to human rights and democracy issues,” Lahvinets believes.

Apparently, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Sebastian Kurtz can well afford to see each other. It is the third time that the Belarusian leader has met the Austrian Chancellor. Although there are 1,200 kilometres between Minsk and Vienna share a 1,200 km, the sides do have things in common, those of both economic and historical nature.

“Today, we are united in our wrench of the past, the call of conscience and responsibility for the fate of future generations,” Lukashenka said when taking part in unveiling the monument in Trastsyanets.