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22 Mar, 2023 15:27

Member state claims EU ‘delusional’ in push to ‘decouple’ from Russia

Austria's Alexander Schallenberg was defending Raiffeisen Bank over its business in Europe's largest country
Member state claims EU ‘delusional’ in push to ‘decouple’ from Russia

Russia will always remain important for the European Union, Austria’s foreign minister told Reuters on Wednesday. Alexander Schallenberg was responding questions about Raiffeisen Bank’s continued operations in the sanctioned country.

The diplomat made his comments after the US government launched a probe last month into the Austrian lender over its dealings in Russia.

Let’s get real,” he said. “91% of Western companies are still in Russia and doing what is sensible: waiting, containment, ring fencing.

Raiffeisen Bank International is Austria’s second-largest lender and, despite sanctions, still plays a critical role in the Russian economy. It’s one of only two foreign banks on the Russian central bank’s list of 13 systemically important credit institutions. The other is UniCredit, a pan-European commercial bank.

“To think that there won’t be Russia anymore and we can decouple in all areas is delusional,” Schallenberg told Reuters, adding that while Austria would loosen ties, this “can’t happen overnight.”

Schallenberg also discouraged the EU from introducing further sanctions against Russia.

“It is a very blunt weapon,” he said. “We’ve had massive sanctions packages. Give them time to work.”

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