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EU ambassador summoned for criticising Austria’s Russian gas dependence

Austria’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the head of the EU Commission’s representation in Austria, Martin Selmayr, over his comments highlighting the country’s continued dependence on Russian gas flows

By: EBR - Posted: Friday, September 8, 2023

“Oh my God, 55% of Austria’s gas continues to come from Russia,” Selmayr lamented in Vienna on Wednesday night. Paying for continued Russian supplies was tantamount to helping finance its war against Ukraine, and no one protested, he added.
“Oh my God, 55% of Austria’s gas continues to come from Russia,” Selmayr lamented in Vienna on Wednesday night. Paying for continued Russian supplies was tantamount to helping finance its war against Ukraine, and no one protested, he added.

by Nikolaus J. Kurmayer

Austria’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the head of the EU Commission’s representation in Austria, Martin Selmayr, over his comments highlighting the country’s continued dependence on Russian gas flows and its role in financing the war in Ukraine.

Most rich EU countries have shaken off their dependence on Russian gas, including Germany, once the Kremlin’s biggest customer, by switching to liquefied natural gas (LNG). Austria, however, has largely abandoned its efforts to diversify supply, as Gazprom is once again honouring its supply contracts.

“Oh my God, 55% of Austria’s gas continues to come from Russia,” Selmayr lamented in Vienna on Wednesday night. Paying for continued Russian supplies was tantamount to helping finance its war against Ukraine, and no one protested, he added.

“That amazes me, because blood money is sent to Russia every day with the gas bill,” he added, saying a rich country like Austria could switch to LNG if it chose to do so.

Following those remarks, Austria’s foreign minister requested Selmayr to come in for a conversation, a spokesperson told APA.

On the part of the far-right FPO, the reactions were harsher.

The Chancellor should “demand that the Commission immediately dismiss Selmayr,” said FPO Secretary General Michael Schnedlitz.

Austria’s centre-right Europe Minister Karoline Edtstadler (OVP) dismissed Selmayr’s points, saying they were “unserious and counterproductive”. The comments were also ”one-sided”, she added, noting that the EU’s imports of Russian LNG had increased as well.

While this may be the case, few countries continue to unabashedly import Russian pipeline gas, apart from hold-outs such as Hungary – reportedly receiving favourable terms in a concession to Prime Minister Viktor Orban – and Austria.

By still purchasing so much Russian gas, Austria remains one of the EU’s biggest per capita contributors to financing the Kremlin’s war, with one political journalist even calling the entire affair “News from Oblast Vienna.”

As for the European Commission, a spokesman quickly distanced Brussels from Selmayr’s comments, calling them “regrettable and inappropriate”.

Liberal MEP Claudia Gamon also commented, saying: “The fact that the European Commission doesn’t support him is scandalous!”

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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