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Austria announces opposition to EU membership for Ukraine weeks after Putin meeting

world-regions does not believe conflicts should obtain European Union membership. 

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg spoke at the 14th European media summit this week, saying that Ukraine should not receive candidate status in June. He reiterated Austria’s dedication to neutrality as a key element of the nation’s “self-definition.” 

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“We don’t belong to any military alliance and we don’t want to,” he said, but he highlighted the contributions Austria has made to Ukraine’s defense, adding that E.U. membership and neutrality are “compatible.” 

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    VIENNA, AUSTRIA – AUGUST 14: Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg speaks at a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Belvedere Palace on August 14, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. Mr. Pompeo’s weeklong trip to central Europe, in which he is visiting the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria and Poland, comes shortly after the United States announced a defense "posture review" that sees it reduce its troop presence in Germany in favor of Poland and other countries.  (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

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    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer attend a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday.  (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout)

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    Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks during a news conference after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on Monday. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

Schallenberg repeated his stance to Austrian publication Heute, but went further and said Ukraine should not, in principle, become a member even in the future. He called for a “different way” for Ukraine to develop ties with Europe. 

His comments follow a meeting between Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 11, during which the two leaders held “direct, open and tough” talks, according to German outlet DW. 

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Nehammer raised the issue of war crimes in Bucha, and said he came away from the talks with “no optimistic impression.” 

Ukraine’s foreign ministry expressed disappointment with Austria’s stance, calling the Austrian official’s statement “short-sighted” and “not in the interests of the united Europe.”

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“Such statements also ignore the fact that the vast majority of the population of the E.U. founding member states support Ukraine’s membership,” said Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko, adding that postponing Ukraine’s membership means “indulging Putin’s aggressive plans.” 

But around 40% of Austrians consider the government’s position on Ukraine as “on the whole correct,” while 23% believe the government is “too pro-Ukraine” and 17% “too pro-Russia,” according to Heute. 

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