VIENNA: In the Ukraine crisis, Russian natural gas supplies should not be subject to EU sanctions, according to Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.
The Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 should also be excluded, the conservative politician made clear in an interview with the Sunday edition of Die Presse newspaper.
Schallenberg pointed out to the Austrian newspaper that Nord Stream 2 is not yet in operation. Therefore, he said, the pipeline could not be used to build up a threat.
"We in Europe are to a certain extent dependent on energy from Russia," the chief diplomat also argued. "We will not be able to change that overnight if we want heat and electricity."
The minister stressed, however, that extensive European Union economic and financial sanctions are being worked on intensively in case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"There will be a very clear, unequivocal and swift response in the event of an escalation," Schallenberg said. He did not rule out an exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT bank payment system.
Austria traditionally strives for good relations with Russia. Energy also plays a role: the Austrian oil and gas company OMV is one of the investors in Nord Stream 2.
An important natural gas hub that distributes Russian gas to European countries is also located near Vienna.