Austria’s economy remains tied to Russia


The figure created a shock in Austria. In December 2022, ten months after the start of the war in Ukraine, and despite calls from the European Union (EU) to urgently withdraw from Russian gas, this prosperous country of nine million inhabitants still imported more than 70% of its gas from Russia. Almost as much as before the war.

While the rest of the EU prides itself on having succeeded in reducing its Russian imports from 50% to less than 15% of the total, while whole countries, such as the Czech Republic or Bulgaria, have switched all their supplies in a few months, Austria, a country that is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and fiercely attached to its neutrality, is visibly incapable of following the movement.

(Over the whole year)our share of non-Russian gas in our imports has increased significantly, thanks in particular to the additional delivery contracts signed with customers in Norway and Italy”however defends Alfred Stern, CEO of the national energy company OMV, by receiving The world, Wednesday, March 8, for an interview that quickly becomes tense as soon as one insists on the reasons for this Austrian exception.

According to him, the figure for December 2022 is explained by the return to normal of Gazprom deliveries in the gas pipeline which leads to the Slovak border, “just before Christmas”. “I don’t know why”he assures, explaining that he is “forced to take these quantities delivered under (their) CONTRACT “.

Accusation of supporting the Russian war effort

If the subject is so sensitive in Austria, it is because OMV is not the only large company to maintain intensive ties with Moscow, despite the war, sometimes giving the impression that the country remains economically dependent on Russia. In January, the country’s second-largest bank, Raiffeisen, posted a record profit of 3.6 billion euros for 2022. The catch: 60% of these profits come from its Russian subsidiary, for which management assures “consider all options” since the start of the war, including a sale, without having taken a decision so far.

During the presentation of the results, the boss of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), Johann Strobl, had to defend himself by saying that the new laws in force in Russia prevented him from easily selling his subsidiary, which has more than two million customers. , or even to repatriate the profits to Vienna.

But, in the meantime, the Austrian bank is taking full advantage of being one of the last Western financial institutions to maintain its presence in Russia, with the Italian UniCredit – Société Générale sold its subsidiary in May. For example, it now handles 30% of all transfers to and from Russia made through the Swift system.

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