On the old continent, the issue causing the greatest concern is the conflict in Ukraine. Elisabeth Kehrer, the ambassador of the Republic of Austria to Mexico, said, "For centuries, we fought wars to take over territory. That's why the goal of Europe's security system is to never change borders by force, and if we go back to that, this dream is over."
She participated in the series of Conversations from European Diplomacy, organized by the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences (FCPyS) of the UNAM, and added that the idea of the invasion of a country by its neighbor, larger and armed even with nuclear artifacts, was unthinkable; however, "we are living it again."
The reaction of the European Union "has been very strong and united so far". Foreign policy needs consensus from 27 countries, more or less close to and dependent on Russia, and we had no choice but to impose sanctions. We do not want to get directly involved because that would be World War III; if we or our allies, such as the United States or Canada, were to get involved in this conflict, it could be a nuclear one.
Although Austria, which is a neutral nation, has no border with Ukraine, this is a "war next door" in a neighboring country. Therefore, "it is very difficult to explain the shock we received with the Russian invasion," with an attack with 200,000 soldiers from all directions towards Kyiv at the beginning of the conflict.
What is happening in that region of the world is causing inflation and other economic problems on a global scale, "but for us, it is vital, fundamental as an issue, and that is why we insist on it."
Kehrer stressed that the European sanctions imposed on the Russians have not been against food, humanitarian goods, or medicine; in contrast, the use of food and energy as "weapons" is a decision of Vladimir Putin; this is new, because neither the Soviet Union, before, nor Russia, afterward, had done so.
Regarding the pacification plan presented a few days ago by the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Austrian ambassador mentioned: "we cannot agree". If the situation is currently "frozen," with the Russians occupying 20 to 25% of Ukrainian territory, they will be able to establish themselves more strongly and rearm.
Moreover, at the moment, it appears that Ukraine is successful in its military counter-campaign. President Putin's reaction of mobilizing reserves and openly threatening to use nuclear weapons shows that things are not going well for Moscow. "Therefore, the idea of 'freezing' does not seem possible for us, and we will continue with sanctions."
Efforts have also been made to engage in dialogue. The Austrian prime minister went to Moscow in April and called the Russian president in May; leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron or German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also tried, but at the moment, with the logic of war, it is not possible to find a solution, warned Elisabeth Kehrer.
Austria has a fairly strong dependence on gas; for example, most people in the city of Vienna cook and heat with Russian gas. "We have been receiving gas since 1968, and this is the first time we have been cut off."
A huge transformation is required, which must be done in a few years, and accelerates the shift to renewable energies. "It is said that to free ourselves from dependence on Russian gas, we need five years; the process represents a sacrifice; but if we do not stop and say never again to territorial conquest by armed force, the consequences could be very harsh. "There are no options," she stressed.
Referring to Austria and its relations with Mexico, she described them as "very good, but they should be more intense". Both nations work together, especially in multilateralism. With a tendency toward mediation, based on international law, they promote nuclear disarmament issues.
There is a United Nations headquarters in Vienna where issues such as drugs, human trafficking, and organized crime, which are important for Mexico, are addressed. Mexico is an important partner for the European Union, but relations between the two may have gotten worse since the pandemic.
"We have had a global agreement since the year 2000 and we occupy a second place as investors, only after the United States." However, that pact needs updating because it does not include services and other issues such as the digital industry, Kehrer said.
A modernization agreement has already been drawn up but has not yet been signed, "but I hope it will be signed, as it should allow us to intensify relations," which is 2022 will be 180 years since the so-called Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation was signed.
Although there have been difficult moments in the bilateral relationship, such as when Maximilian of Habsburg was Emperor of Mexico, there are also positive aspects: in 1938, when Nazi Germany occupied Austria, it was the only country to protest at the League of Nations, in Geneva, against that violation of international law.
At present, approximately 30 thousand Austrians are living in Mexican territory, registered at the Embassy. There are also approximately 100 companies from that European country that generate close to 8,000 jobs. The Cablebus line 1 was built by an Austrian company, and another commercialized Red Bull. In addition, every year, 260 Mexican students study in that nation thanks to the Erasmus Program.