Exiting the country is more complicated than most realize, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has claimed Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (L), Bratislava, May 29, 2023. © AFP / Michal Cizek
More than 90% of Western businesses that were present in Russia before the conflict with Ukraine broke out are still operating in the country, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said on Thursday.
In an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Schallenberg also highlighted Russian companies are still active in Austria and Germany, while Vienna’s dependence on gas supplies from the sanctions-hit country remains high.
“Exit from the Russian market is a far more complicated process than it is often described,” Schallenberg said.
Austria’s reliance on Russian gas supplies has been reduced but still amounts to 50%, the minister said, stressing that the landlocked country cannot build LNG terminals, unlike some fellow EU member states.
“All in all, only 12% of Austria’s energy requirements are covered by Russian gas supplies,” the minister added.
“We have created strategic gas reserves, and won’t face intermittent power outages during the upcoming winter.”
Earlier this year, Schallenberg said Russia would remain important for the EU, urging the bloc’s lawmakers to “get real.” The minister defended the right of Raiffeisen Bank International, Austria’s second-largest lender, to continue operating in Russia, as it is one of only two foreign banks that is systemically important for the Russian economy, along with pan-European commercial bank UniCredit.
“To think that there won’t be Russia anymore and we can decouple in all areas is delusional,” he stated in a March interview with Reuters.
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