With so many multilateral meetings involving senior diplomats from Central Europe, such as the UN in New York and the Special Council of EU Foreign Ministers in Kiev, it is easy to lose track of what is happening. happens. While the other four colleagues participated in meetings in the Western context, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijártó met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in New York and Moscow. So, during the opening of the Central 5 meeting in Vienna, host Alexander Schallenberg mistakenly mentioned a “C4”. The Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter Szijártó, then humorously described Schallenberg as “godfather”, as reported by DiePresse.
European Perspective for the Western Balkans
The foreign ministers of Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Tanja Fajon, Jan Lipavský and Miroslav Wlachovský, have urged the Western Balkan republics to join the EU as quickly as possible. Fajon cited the year 2030 as an example. She did not address the simmering conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, but instead warned that given the tensions in the region, Europe would face a new conflict. The Austrian Foreign Minister highlighted Austria’s positive role. Austria’s position on the Balkans has been clearly expressed several times in recent days, as reported by Vindobona.org.
In response, the Hungarian Foreign Minister has consistently attacked the European Union on immigration. He said that migrants and armed smugglers were having fun on the Serbian border and that the EU’s inactivity only supported the smugglers’ business model. Conversely, Schallenberg deplored the “dysfunction” of the Schengen agreement.
Energy security and diversification of energy sources were also discussed at the meeting, particularly in light of Russian aggression. The C5 format, created during the COVID-19 pandemic, has proven to be a useful forum for discussing current foreign policy issues.
OSCE as a key topic
The OSCE, headquartered in Vienna, faces major challenges. Russia is currently blocking key initiatives, including the appointment of new leadership positions, Vindobona.org reported.
“We need the OSCE,” said Czech Foreign Minister Ján Lipavský, for example, who highlighted the role of the OSCE’s predecessor, the CSCE, in overcoming the division of blocs in Europe. His Slovak counterpart Miroslav Wlachovský also said that the OSCE “remains a very useful organization. We must keep it alive.” Schallenberg said the OSCE is “the only pan-European platform for dialogue.” The organization is “collateral damage” of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, he said, but at the same time it is needed “for the next day” as a communication channel.
Schallenberg presented a compromise proposal under which North Macedonia would chair the OSCE for another year. This year’s budget would be maintained and the OSCE leaders would also remain in office for another year. The consultations with the C5 ministers also included the Secretary General of the OSCE, Helga Schmid, who will have to leave her post in December without a solution.
According to DiePresse, Schallenberg speculated that Russia would be ready to take over the Austrian presidency as host of the OSCE. However, this would require a conference between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The Foreign Minister clarified that Austria was not a candidate for the presidency. While the OSCE has a “special responsibility” as host country, North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Bujar Osmani is currently leading the negotiations, he said when asked about a meeting with Lavrov. It is his responsibility to do so.
Lavrov had already met Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister. In response to a question, he said he had accepted the Russian Foreign Minister’s invitation to the October 13 energy summit in Moscow. He further refuted the idea that this could include more Russian energy supplies for his country, as reported by Vol.at. Hungary’s top diplomat said, “We have long-standing contracts for oil, gas and nuclear fuel,” while reiterating his country’s opposition to Ukraine’s just war of self-defense. Because there are more victims and destruction every day, the conditions for peace “were better yesterday than today, and they will be worse tomorrow than today,” Szijjártó said, referring to the fact that ethnic Hungarians, those who belong to the Hungarian ethnic group in Ukraine – would also perish in the conflict.
At the same time, the Slovak Foreign Minister denied fears that his country would become Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s second Trojan horse in the European Union after Fico’s election victory: as reported by Vol.at. “I trust my people. It will not be a Trojan horse,” said Wlachovský, who also does not want to bury the hope of still being present at the next meeting of the cooperation group. “Maybe I’ll be there, maybe I won’t,” he said.
The meeting ended with a common message of solidarity and cooperation and a commitment to continue supporting the OSCE and promoting peace and security in Europe. It is expected that Slovenia will host the next meeting in March next year.