Austria and Switzerland move to join European Sky Shield
The opposition in Austria claims that the decision to move forward with joining the European Sky Shield initiative is incompatible with the principle of neutrality the government adheres to.
Roman Haider, an Austrian lawmaker, told Sputnik on Saturday that the opposition Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) considered the European Sky Shield (ESS) air defense project to be in contradiction with the neutrality principle the country adheres to, and has urged for a referendum after Austria joined the initiative together with Switzerland earlier this week.
Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd and her Austrian counterpart Klaudia Tanner approved the move to take part in the ESS initiative earlier on Friday, despite the fact that both countries had previously pledged to maintain a neutral foreign policy stance.
Haider stated that "There was a debate in the Austrian parliament. My party's statement is the following: "Austria's place is not at the side of a military alliance, but as a mediator and place for negotiations to settle conflicts. Sky Shield is completely incompatible with our perpetual neutrality, so we call for a referendum to be held on it."
Officials from Austria and Switzerland refuted the argument that their involvement in the initiative would jeopardize their nations' "long-standing and constitutionally protected neutrality."
The Austrian Defense Minister additionally made clear that, notwithstanding Vienna's political commitment to Kiev, Austria is intent on maintaining open channels of contact with Russia.
After Russia began its special military operation in Ukraine, Germany, in August 2022, launched the European Sky Shield initiative with the aim to close any gaps in Europe's air missile defense by easing the combined acquisition and integration of air defense systems by European nations. In other words, the initiative seeks to improve NATO's integrated air and missile defense.