Politics

For the Biden government, Austria is a “strong, valued partner”

Even under President Joe Biden, the USA is interested in close relations with Austria. The new government has made it clear that “Austria is a strong, valued and close partner,” said Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Vienna, Robin Dunnigan, in an interview with APA. Specifically, she highlighted climate policy. There are “disagreements” with the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Place open for Biden-Putin summit

Dunnigan was covered for a possible Biden-Putin summit in Vienna. When asked about Vienna’s chances, Dunnigan did not know when and where the planned summit meeting Biden with Russian President Vladimir Putin would take place. “But I will say so much: Austria has been an incredibly courteous and generous host for international negotiations for decades and we appreciate the hospitality of Austria.”

In this regard, Dunnigan referred to the Vienna talks that had been going on since April to revive the Iran nuclear deal. These are “a perfect example that diplomacy (under Biden) is back”. The career diplomat did not want to speculate about the chances of an agreement in the negotiations, which were conducted indirectly between Washington and Tehran. But it is “good that we make an effort and continue the diplomatic dialogue”.

No reservation against Kurz

The US Chargé d’Affaires countered the impression that there could be reservations in the Biden administration against Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) because of his good contacts with the controversial ex-President Donald Trump. After Biden took office, there had already been “robust contact with the Chancellor,” said Dunnigan, referring to Kurz’s phone call with Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan in mid-February.

“Notable contacts”

In the first 100 days, there were “considerable contacts at the highest level” between Washington and Vienna, according to Dunnigan, referring to the phone call between the two foreign ministers Antony Blinken and Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP). “I strongly assume that it will continue like this,” she said when asked about possible ministerial visits this year. She did not want to “speculate” about a possible reception of Kurz in the White House. But this was “very careful” during the Covid crisis and Biden only received a few visitors, she added.

“Gewessler’s input appreciated”

Dunnigan also explicitly highlighted Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) as discussion partners, who had participated in the online climate summit organized by the Biden government at the end of April. “We appreciated your input and your description of Austria’s ambitious climate goals,” said Dunnigan. She expects close cooperation in the next few months in preparation for the UN climate conference COP26. In addition, several exchanges between Austrian and American companies in the field of green technology have been organized.

Europe “most important partner”

Dunnigan emphasized the great interest of the new US administration in closer cooperation with Europe. For Biden, the partnerships with the EU, NATO partners or Austria are “the most essential partnerships we have”. These partnerships are “the cornerstone of our prosperity, our common security and everything we want to achieve”. Therefore, the partnerships with the European states under Biden are “stronger and livelier than ever”.

Nord Stream 2 problematic

The USA is also building on European partnership in its policy towards Russia and China. However, there are also differences of opinion here, admitted Dunnigan. For example, the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, in which OMV is also involved, does not contribute to Europe’s security of supply. “We don’t believe that Europe will make it safer if you increase its dependence on Russian energy.” At the same time, she reiterated the sanctions threats against OMV, among others. “The government has a legal obligation to act against companies that invest in Nord Stream 2,” she said.

Digital tax sanctions?

US sanctions could also threaten Austria because of the digital tax. Washington is in favor of a solution within the framework of the OECD, but until then “keep all options open to ensure that our companies have a level playing field,” said Dunnigan. The digital tax is seen as discriminatory by Washington because it targets large international online corporations.

Vaccinate around the globe

The Californian diplomat also campaigned for cooperation in the fight against Covid-19. Although the US had made great strides in vaccinations, for example, it would now support other countries, with around four billion US dollars for the COVAX initiative. “We can’t do this alone. If Covid spreads to other parts of the world, it can come back and hit us all, ”said Dunnigan, who also defended the controversial proposal to suspend vaccination patents in this context. The pandemic is namely an “extraordinary situation” in which all options have to be examined. The US is not generally in favor of removing patent protection for drugs, she added.

Ambassador post vacant

How long Dunnigan will head the US embassy in Vienna is open. “I don’t know when President Biden will appoint an ambassador,” said Dunnigan. In view of the new government’s appointments so far, she is confident “that it will be an excellent candidate”. Biden’s predecessor Trump took his time with his nomination. Ambassador Trevor Traina only came to Vienna in May 2018, 16 months after the President took office.

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