Prague/Vienna - Former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg today said the Austrian leaders who criticise him for slumbering during an important EU debate instead of siding with Vienna failed to address the Czechs before the crucial vote in question.
Bývalý ministr zahraničí Karel Schwarzenberg na schůzi Poslanecké sněmovny 4. února 2009. ČTK Doležal Michal, ČTK
Schwarzenberg, 75, who heads the conservative party TOP 09, was minister in Petr Necas´s the right-wing cabinet that collapsed over a scandal of Necas´s aide in June.
According to the Austrian Press Agency APA, Austrian Chancellor and Social Democrat (SPOe) head Werner Faymann rebuked Schwarzenberg in an interview for Thursday´s issue of the Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten daily for probably not having always paid attention at meetings in Brussels.
Faymann said he watched Schwarzenberg at several meetings and had the impression as if Schwarzenberg enjoyed slumbering and did not follow all of the agenda discussed.
Before Faymann, similar comments on Schwarzenberg were made by Austrian Foreign and People´s Party (OeVP) head Minister Michael Spindelegger.
Spindelegger said in Saturday´s issue of Der Standard that he missed Schwarzenberg´s clear position at the EU´s crucial negotiation about an arms embargo towards Syria in late May, though Schwarzenberg repeatedly voiced a clear position on the issue before the debate.
"Afterwards, at the crucial meeting, when Britain and France said we have to lift the embargo, I was left alone [with an opposite stand]. No one sided with me any more. He (Schwarzenberg) says I don´t have enough personal courage. He closed his eyes at the meeting and pretended sleeping," Spindelegger told Der Standard.
In reaction to him and Faymann, Schwarzenberg told CTK today that the Austrians, "however, did not even discuss the issue with us and we, after a thorough debate with our representation and after a stormy debate at the plenary meeting, decided on how to vote."
The arms embargo the EU imposed on Syria in late May 2011 applied to both the opposition and the government.
Late this May, EU foreign ministers at the above mentioned meeting failed to agree on whether to prolong or change the embargo, as a result of which it expired as from June 1.
A change to the embargo was promoted mainly by Britain and France. Austria clearly opposed a change and it threatened to withdraw its people from the monitoring mission in the Golan Heights unless the embargo were prolonged.
The Austria later really withdrew its people from the Golan Heights, citing their mission as too risky.
"One feels ashamed though one is foreign minister for a neighbouring state only," Schwarzenberg said at the time.
The verbal exchange was triggered by Schwarzenberg in his interview for a recent issue of the Austrian weekly Profil.
"I think Spindelegger is not quite interested in foreign and European policies," Schwarzenberg told Profil.
He also criticised the Austrian OeVP´s policy for not much differing from the SPOe´s, its partner in the grand coalition.