While Bulgarian Prime Minister, Gala Donev threatened Austria and The Netherlands with official countermeasures, Romanian citizens have taken things into their own hands. Thousands of people have already closed their bank accounts at Raiffeisen Bank and Erste Group. Things took a turn for Austrian businesses in Romania after Rares Bogdan, a Romanian MEP from the National Liberal Party called for companies and individuals to boycott them.
“Starting now, every Romanian citizen and Romanian company […] who has millions of euros running monthly through Raiffeisen and Erste must close their accounts, because Austria’s behavior was defiant, revolting, aggressive, and rude,” said Rares Bogdan.
The Raiffeisen Bank CEO, Zdenek Romanek gave an official response saying “we fully support Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area. We were surprised by Austria’s decision and we hope it’s a temporary result. We will continue to support the authorities in reaching a favorable outcome. Raiffeisen Bank has been financing and supporting Romania’s economy for 25 years as a strong partner for 2 million citizens and 150,000 companies. We will continue to do so, together with our 4,900 Romanian employees nationwide.”
Austria’s winter tourism might see a significant drop after many citizens and companies canceled their vacations and team-building trips for this year. The Austrian-owned gas station chain, OMV, also seems to have had a drop in sales since last week.
Many Facebook users believe things might have gone too far after The National Art Museum in Timisoara announced on their page that they canceled the exhibit of an Austrian artist. Filip Petcu, the museum manager, declared for pressalert.ro that he won’t give the name of the artist, as that would not be relevant or constructive. He stated, “the event has diplomatic connections which I will not discuss. […] Cancelling this exhibit is the result of a lack of diplomatic reciprocity between Austria and Romania.”
The Backlash Could Do More Harm Than Good
There are around 1,370 Austrian-owned companies in Romania, with a profit of 7.3 billion euros in 2021. They employ Romanian citizens and bring in a significant sum for the country’s budget. Even though canceling ski trips would affect Austria directly, boycotting companies in Romania could affect the general population.
When it comes to gas stations, the other chains aside from OMV are Rompetrol and Socar (supplied by Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan), MOL (with a supply from Russia), and Lukoil, which is a Russian company. Despite Romania taking a pro-Ukraine stance at the beginning of the war, boycotting the Austrian gas station chain will inadvertently support Russia.