Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) will meet his counterparts from the Central Eastern European neighbors Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia in Vienna on Wednesday. This is the tenth meeting of the “Central 5” (C5), a dialogue forum founded in the 2020 corona pandemic. While the focus back then was on overcoming specific challenges such as border closures, the focus now is on the five states’ joint international presence.
Ahead of the meeting with Miroslav Wlachovský (Slovakia), Tanja Fajon (Slovenia), Jan Lipavský (Czech Republic) and Péter Szijjártó (Hungary), Schallenberg emphasized that regional cooperation was an “absolute priority” for him. “Neighborhood is important, neighborhood matters!” After all, the past “has taught us that the problems of our neighbors are all too often our own,” Schallenberg referred in a broadcast to the effects of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and waves of migration.
In connection with the war, Schallenberg wants to insist on a continued united approach. “Our unity is our strongest asset.” Within the C5 group, Hungary repeatedly causes a stir with criticism of the European approach to the aggressor Russia, but so far it has always supported the EU sanctions. However, the NATO country rejects arms deliveries to Ukraine. A similar change of course could be imminent in Slovakia if left-wing populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico wins the National Council elections there on Saturday.
The Secretary General of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Helga Schmid, will also take part in the conversation between the five foreign ministers. After playing an important role in containing the conflict with an observation mission following the first Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014, the OSCE is now virtually paralyzed. At the turn of the year, the world’s largest regional security organization could even become leaderless because the aggressor Russia is blocking Estonia’s candidacy as the OSCE chairmanship country. “The important role of the OSCE as a platform for the period after the Russian invasion” will be discussed with Schmid, the Foreign Ministry said. Another topic at the C5 meeting will be the fight against illegal migration and the situation in the Western Balkans following the recent riots in Kosovo.
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