Zelensky to address Austria’s parliament Thursday

Zelensky to address Austria’s parliament Thursday

On Thursday, March 30, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine will address the National Council of Austria via video conference.

This was reported by Ukrinform's own correspondent in Austria.

The head of the Ukrainian state will deliver a video address to the Austrian parliament not during the regular session of the lower house, but within the framework of the so-called "parliamentary event" at the invitation of the President of the National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka. This is due to the fact that Zelensky's speech at the session is still being blocked by the far-right and pro-Russian Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ).

It is planned that the event will open at 09:05, after which the president of Ukraine will deliver his address. After that, debates will be held, in the framework of which representatives of parliamentary factions will be offered to speak up.

Read also: Russian oligarch registers assets in name of Austrian national to avoid sanctions - watchdog

It is also expected that on Thursday, at the plenary meeting of Austria’s National Council, which will take place immediately after the "parliamentary event" with Zelensky's speech, the issue of providing Ukrainian refugees with unlimited access to the Austrian labor market will be considered.

Thus, Austria will become one of the last EU member states whose parliament hears an address by the Ukrainian leader. Currently, out of the 27 countries in the European Union, except for Austria, only Bulgaria and Hungary have not yet provided the Ukrainian president with such an opportunity.

Earlier in March 2022, the parties represented in Austria’s parliament failed to reach an agreement on whether to invite President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to address the National Council. The liberal party Neos came up with the initiative, which found no support from the right-wing populist and pro-Russian Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), while Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) took a position on dragging the issue. This behavior of the two parliamentary parties led to considerable criticism among the Austrians and certain political forces. The President of the National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, then declared his readiness to invite the Ukrainian leader for a speech as soon as there is an agreement between the factions.

Read also: Austria joins coalition of countries supporting creation of special tribunal for Russia

The pro-Russian Freedom Party did not support the idea of Zelensky’s video address either and, apparently, the force will not attend the "parliamentary event" when the Ukrainian leader speaks. The leader of the party, Herberg Kikl, said that the speech of the "representative of a warring party in the very heart of our democracy" is a violation of Austria's neutral status.

The President of the National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, said in an interview with the APA news agency that he does not expect "disturbing fire" from the FPÖ during Zelensky’s video address on March 30. According to him, he will not accept "verbal attacks."

Sobotka emphasized that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is illegal under international law and that is why Austria has shown "very clear solidarity" with Ukraine. According to him, "a clear condemnation, clear European solidarity, and clear commitment that war crimes will be tried by an international court" is necessary.

The head of the National Council added that, in any case, Russian President Vladimir Putin would not get a chance to address the Austrian parliament, even if he hypothetically wanted to. "We are not here to spread the most diverse opinions. We must not distort facts. There cannot be the right to speak in the Austrian parliament for someone who justifies war crimes or, perhaps, even gave orders to commit them," he said.

As reported by Ukrinform, on June 14, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Ruslan Stefanchuk spoke before Austria’s National Council despite opposition from the far-right and pro-Russian Austrian Freedom Party.

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