Russia's Putin to Meet Austrian President, Oversee South Stream Deal

Politics » DIPLOMACY | June 24, 2014, Tuesday // 13:21
Bulgaria: Russia's Putin to Meet Austrian President, Oversee South Stream Deal Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to meet Austrian head of state Heinz Fischer in Vienna.

OMV and Gazprom officials are expected to seal deals on the South Stream pipeline during his visit, daily Die Presse reveals, citing high-profile sources.

Talks of the Russian leader with Switzerland's President for 2014, Didier Burkhalter, who also holds the rotational presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is also on the agenda.

Putin is in Austria upon an invitation that his counterpart Fischer issued three years ago, but that was put off many times for different reasons.

The latter has ruled out that the diplomatic event might prompt a change in Vienna's stance on the Ukraine crisis and the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian federation.

Fischer believes instead it could promote dialogue, which in his view is the only solution to conflicts.

Local media say that during the visit, representatives of Austrian energy company OMV and Russia's Gazprom are will sign a deal on the construction of South Stream, the gas pipeline which is to lead Russian gas from Bulgaria to Central Europe and which the EU is seeking to adjust to its Third Energy Package.

OMV and Austria agreed in April that deliveries be carried out starting in September.

Under preliminary deals they could amount to 32 billion cubic meters of gas annually.

Earlier in June the EU Commission launched infringement proceedings against Bulgaria over non-compliance of South Stream with EU legal requirements, and the project was frozen within days on the instructions of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski.

OMV CEO Gerhard Roiss called before meeting Gazprom chief Alexey Miller for fast-paced EU approval of the South Stream project, as the continent relies on Russian supplies and any other stance is "unrealistic".

Protests are due in Vienna over the Russian President's arrival, with posters across the capital portraying him with Hitler-style mustache and fringe, according to Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung. The city center will be sealed off, and 500 additional policemen are to be deployed on security grounds.

Putin's visit also drew criticism from some European leaders, with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt arguing it was up to European institutions to contact with Russia.

He was even quoted by the Kronen Zeitung as saying Putin intended to "divide Europe" with the upcoming talks; in his words, "the Russian always try this when they are in a difficult situation." These concerns were echoed by his Lithuanian counterpart Antanas Linkevicius.

But Austrian top diplomat Sebastian Kurz reminded his country also sought talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Kurz underscored his country could have a vital role in the Russia-Ukraine dialogue.

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Tags: Antanas Linkevicius, Third Energy Package, EU Commission, South stream, Plamen Oresharski, Alexey Miller, Gerhard Roiss, Ukraine, Russia, ukraine crisis, Sebastian Kurz, Carl Bildt, Petro Poroshenko, Heinz Fischer, Vladimir Putin, OMV, Gazprom, Didier Burkhalter, OSCE

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