Austria assures OSCE Obligations and promised to fulfill its international obligations under the headquarters agreement with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), according to the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The statement came after Russia threatened Austria over visa difficulties for Russian diplomats attending multilateral events in Vienna. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the expulsion of four Austrian diplomats in response, but did not provide further details on the problems or Russian retaliatory measures.
On February 1, Russian top diplomat Konstantin Gabrilov complained about difficulties at an OSCE meeting, stating that of the eleven visas requested, only two were issued, two diplomats were refused, and the others were waiting for a response. It is unclear whether the “problems that have arisen” also referred to the issuance of visas to members of the Russian parliamentary delegation who were supposed to attend the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE in Vienna next week.
The Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured that Austria intends to fulfill its international obligations under the headquarters agreement with the OSCE and enable timely entry to the conference for all delegation participants. The spokesperson did not answer the question of whether the visas had already been issued. However, the spokesperson emphasized that the visas for the Russian delegation participants were issued exclusively for the purpose of attending the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE in Vienna. It remains unclear what the consequences would be if Russian delegates, including EU-sanctioned members, were to use their stay in Vienna for private meetings or event visits.
The Ministry of the Interior (BMI) would be responsible for reacting to any violations, but a spokesperson said that inter-ministerial consultations were ongoing, and no further information was available at this time. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that each visa application is carefully reviewed by Austrian authorities on an individual basis.
“We see no reason to comment on this press release from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the spokesperson added, in response to the Russian threat. The Austrian ambassador was informed that the problems that have arisen are contrary to Austria’s obligations as a location for holding international meetings. No further details on the problems or Russian retaliatory measures were given.