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Stable Europe


Centurius
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As mentioned in the letter the two monarchs of the Athenian Federation would be on their way the next day to Vienna for a meeting. As it was a very fast connection from Italy to Austria the decision was made to fly from Athens instead as to have some time discussing before they would arrive.

As always Imperial Air One was host to a large detachment of guards and press in addition to officials that would brief them.

"We will arrive at the airport in about half an hour your imperial highnesses" A messenger from the pilots said as the two monarchs were reading up on their briefings.

"Thank you lieutenant, please inform the High Guard that we will not be needing more than one guard each."

"Yes your imperial highness"

As soon as the plane had safely landed at Vienna Airport the door would be opened. The first to step out would be a guard followed by Ariadne, then Valerio and finally the second guard. The others on the plane would later on head to a hotel arranged by the embassy. Ariadne looked around her before walking down. The air always was great after being on a plane.

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That evening, an Austrian motorcade would arrive to take the Imperial couple to Hofburg Palace where the Empress was holding her court for the time being. The palace was beautifully lit when they arrived, once again alluding to the wealth and strength of the monarchy and the aristocracy who consisted of the Empress' closest supporters. However, Theresia had also opened up many of the Imperial establishments to the middle class and poor. Since the restoration, scores of city balls and music festivals had been held in the compounds of the palace and throughout the city. Tonight however, even the aristocrats were absent from Hofburg, this meeting with the Romans and Greeks was important enough to have complete privacy.

At the gates, Ariadne and Valerio were met by Frederich Kant and Jessika Adler, the Senior and Vice Ministers of Foreign Affairs respectfully. Kant, who was finally catching up in years, pushing sixty-five, smiled and took the Greek's hand, kissing it gently. "It is a pleasure to see you finally in Vienna, Empress Notras. The times truly are changing for the better and it is a pleasure to see you again Emperor Valerio. If you would both follow Fraulein Adler and myself, Her Majesty is waiting in the parlor." From their they entered the shimmering palace, who's marble floors had been restored from the Republic Era to their pristine mirror-like shine. As they approached the parlor, soft chamber music came from within the gilded glass doors where Theresia sat happily listening to the musician in the corner. When the doors opened, she stood as Kant did the formal introductions as part of all diplomatic meetings.

"There's no point to be this proper, Frederich, if we were in the throne room I would say differently, but I don't want to tie ourselves up on formalities." The Empress took Ariadne's hand and clasped it tightly. "It is a pleasure to meet you formally the first time, Excellency and Valerio please send my sister my regards. From what I have heard, she adores Italy." Straightening herself and the white military uniform she was wearing. "Dinner has been set and my chef is getting impatient with me so at the risk of the food being poisoned, I suggest we head to the dinning room." She chuckled and took the ambassadors spot in leading the entourage through the palace.

Finally the group arrived in the dining room, sitting between the mirrors and lit candlesticks on the wall. The room was warm with the color of red velvet on the chairs and a white table cloth stretched under plates of beef, fish, potatoes, caviar, and glasses of wine. Taking her seat at the head of the table, Theresia dismissed the chef and wet her mouth with the wine before beginning to speak. "I don't mean to bring up business so quickly before we've begun to eat, but food to me makes politics more enjoyable so I like to combine them. That said, Jessika, would you like to begin?"

"Of course Majesty," the young brunette smiled and flipped through a dossier she carried with her. "With the Republican Era coming to an end with the Imperial Restoration, Austria feels that it is imperative to begin focusing on her place in Europe. Many complaints have come from the citizenry and aristocracy as to the behaviors of Athens and Germany, however we believe that it is simply the fact that Austria exists as the fulcrum between Dalmatia, Germany, and Athens and the tension attached between these powers that keeps Austria in a state of distrust."

Theresia smiled and paused Jessika for a moment. "I want to apologize for Austria's actions after the recent German War. For the Republic to completely forgo Athenian negotiations caused problems that we can still see today. Athens and Germany, being at each others throat's is not something I want to see happen so soon after so many young lives were lost. So I would like to begin with Athens' opinion on how relations with Germany, which will soon be an Austrian ally can be improved. A lot of this, Ariadne," The Empress nodded, "I think is attributed with Athenian Expansion meeting the same levels of Germany Expansion, both of which is worrying to Austria, especially the recent annexation of France. I would hope if it would be possible to see the Eastern French returned to a protectorate state and if a joint-protectorate is necessary, Austria would be glad to take Germany's place. It would show our new stability and ambition in Europe and the world. Because Europe is starting to look like it did two millennia ago, German Tribes controlling everything north of the Rhine and the Roman Empire controlling everything else."

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As the motorcade took them to the Hofburg Palace Ariadne kept watching through the window. She was not sure what would come out of the meeting and the way relations had deteriorated under the Republican government was disturbing. She honestly hoped that this would be corrected now, after all Austria was a key to European stability. Many wars had been fought and many Athenians had died to preserve that stability. She honestly wondered how Valerio could not worry over this meeting, Greek and Austrians had not mixed well in the past. This admittedly was mostly the fault of the Greeks however, now they had to bend over for the greater good. Caught up in thoughts she did not hear the car stop or the door opening.

"Your Imperial Highness, are you alright?" One of the guards asked.

Brought back to reality Ariadne nodded "Yes I am fine." She stepped out of the car after Valerio to be received by both the Foreign Minister and the Vice Foreign Minister.

"Thank you and the pleasure is mine, I must thank you for the reception so far." Ariadne said, Valerio also replied to the warm welcome. The guards would remain in the hall immediately after the entrance while Ariadne and Valerio followed Kant and Adler. After a relatively short walk they would arrive at the parlor.

"Thank you Empress, I must say the pleasure is mine." Ariadne replied. Valerio smiled as he kissed the Empress' hand as was formal for Bourbon monarchs. "I certainly hope so Theresia, though I do think she misses Austria often. I will send her your regards. The two nodded in confirmation as they continued to the dining room. Admittedly they had expected a meeting in a traditional conference room but this worked too. Quite honestly a change from standard procedures was welcome. Valerio and Ariadne would take seats opposite of each other at the table close to the head as to make talking easier.

Ariadne smiled as Theresia began. "That is alright, I do not mind a change of ways". She listened closely as the Vice Foreign Affairs Minister explained the Austrian position.

"I fear the strong tensions between Athens and Germany are not easily solved. Recent changes in the German state have given both citizens as parliament as myself the idea that nothing has changed and that a madman like Haas will quickly make a rise to power. As you probably know our parliament has implemented several extensive anti-nationalist policies. It is not simply that we can not solve issues with the German state, there also is a lack of desire as in recent months we have found out we do not need Northern Europe." Ariadne said after she had taken a sip from her glass.

"Theresia I can understand your point, I do not desire to see young Athenian men and women die either however there are those values we can not ignore. Polls indicate that a supermajority of 87% support the extensive border protection along the German border. As Ariadne just explained I do not think the issues can be solved. The current cold war may just be the most ideal situation possible. I can also say Athens has no intent to actually attack Germany." Valerio would pause for what seemed like an eternity as Eastern France came up. "I understand your point however we have held onto Eastern France as a military province for a very specific reason. Perhaps just the situation you explained. We feel the German machine can just be contained if kept above the line it currently holds. The French regions do enjoy something close to independence however it is true they are subject to an Athenian general and admittedly are mostly used as bufferzone against Germany. Giving up this advantage would undo our current containment policy."

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"The Athenian-German Border, is perhaps one of the longest in Europe, Valerio." Theresia began after spooning a bit of fish into her mouth. "If a cold war style scenario is going to grip Europe, the lessening of tensions, whether Athens would commit to an attack or not will help extend a feeling of safety to other European nations. In my opinion, Athens and Germany are playing off each other. Anti-Nationalism sweeps the south, while nationalist movements sweep the north. Both of your countries seem to be constantly moving towards annexing more parts of Europe and with a policy of banning nationalist sentiments, nations such as France, Spain, and Portugal; nations that are on the frontiers of the Federation are not able to celebrate their own nationalist histories and cultures. A banning on nationalism, and correct me if I am mistaken, seems like a ban on the past."

The Empress thought for a moment before speaking again. "It is just my opinion, Ariadne, Valerio, not to undermine the strength of Athens, but Europe is seeing a disappearance of markets. Nearly all trade is controlled either by yourselves, the Germans or Dalmatians, beyond that, when two of the nations you border are in a silent war with each other, trade between them makes the other suspicious. I won't beat around the bush, Austria desires an alliance with both Athens and Berlin respectively, but one of our diplomatic priorities is to diminish the chance of further European wars. At least between the major powers, while bringing some semblance of the Old World back. I am not one to order anyone around, especially someone like yourself Ariadne, but I do feel that with so much of Europe commanded by two powers a laxing of sovereignty over frontier territories I think would be beneficial. As I said before, if you are worried about German incursion into France, a combined force of Austrian and Athenian can make German Hostility a thing of the past. I can assure you, I am just as geared towards German containment as you are. The events of the past don't not leave my mind quickly."

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Ariadne after finishing a bit of fish would respond to the first sentence. "I fear your misunderstand our policies Theresia. We have not banned patriotism or pride for a nation. However by our policies and a Supreme Court ruling we have banned the extreme versions of these. A Frenchman may still appreciate his history however when this love for a nation or ethnicity leads to violence or failed politics the state will step in. We do not want all citizens to abolish their heritage, we just don't want their heritage to influence public policy or harm others."

"I think we could live with a joint protectorate over the current military provinces in France. However there are two terms for that, first the German border must remain militarized to provide an early warning in case of a possible attack through France. Secondly if we share responsibility we would also like to see the same defense. In essence should Germany move into the protectorate we would require Austria to assist in a counter-attack."

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"There is also another point we would like to talk about. It has come to our attention that you are obtaining an organized navy. So far patrol and protection of the Mediterranean has been up to the Hellenic Mediterranean Fleet however admittedly these ships have stretched quite thin and can not see everything on the seas. I was wondering if Austria would be willing to take over part of these patrols so we can guarantee stable and secure commercial routes through the seas." Ariadne said.

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"Well I'm glad the rumors that come up in idle conversation about Athens being a police state are untrue, because I do think nationalism, so long as it isn't extremist is healthy for a state. But I can completely agree to the conditions for the joint-protectorate, in truth, Ariadne if Germany were to attack that protectorate we would view it as an attack on ourselves and while I detest the idea of fighting yet another war with Germany. The Imperial Army will be ready if that is the unfortunate case. I would assume however that the militarization would be light? In truth I do not know the strength of the garrison you have in Eastern France, but would say, twenty to thirty thousand soldiers, in addition to armor divisions be enough?"

Kant chimed in for the Greek's second statement. "At the moment, Your Highness, the Imperial Navy consists of only six ships and we have our own patrols to conduct around Ehestadt and I know that the Empress is also looking for an outlet outside of the Mediterranean. That is correct, Empress Theresia?"

"Yes, I have already discussed with the Germans, the possibility of a Norwegian Naval Base as to get out of being encased in this lake of a sea. However, that is not to say that we couldn't also participate in these patrols. What exactly were you thinking, Ariadne? How many ships would be sufficient and where in the Mediterranean would you need additional help?"

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"I can understand where those rumors come from, the Athenian Federation maintains a stong police force, and perhaps an even stronger secret police force. However these departments have some very specific duties. They will not arrest a Frenchman for singing the anthem so to say. The police forces may only act to counteract violent elements in society. But yes internationally their methods may seem rather excessive. I am glad to see such an arrangement is possible that removes any objection we have to the joint protectorate. Currently we have around those numbers stationed there yes however our military structure automatically adds the armored support to the infantry divisions so I do fear at 30,000 soldiers we will at all times have 300 tanks and a collection of other support vehicles." Ariadne said.

The response to the second statement was quite alike what they expected. "Of course, I would not force you to halt your other naval interests. All I would like to ask is that Austria take over the duties of patrolling the Adriatic Sea. Our military experts say that removing said liability would increase the effectiveness of the patrols at large a lot. I also imagine the Austrian people would take pride in guarding their sea." Ariadne said.

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"Then I will give orders to my commanders that thirty-thousand troops are to be dispatched, along with some three hundred tanks to the protectorate region in France. As to the naval patrols, while our people would be happy to guard the Adriatic, that will be impossible until the mercenary navy is able to further expand. At the moment we are conducting an operation to secure a sea port on the coast of Africa, the defunct nation of Sanhedrin serving as our claim, after operations cease there, we can begin patrols of the Adriatic." Theresia dabbed her lips with a napkin, putting her silverware down. "However, before we end the political discussions to speak about more pleasant things, I would like to ask if Athens would be up for negotiations in the future with Germany. We are in discussions with the Germans as well and Austria considers it her highest priority to keep Germany and Athens from warring each other."

She smiled and stretched her arms. "I was thinking something informal, perhaps a ball for the leaders of Europe and in the meantime, I could introduce both of you to the German leadership. For all the mythos surrounding the German people, they are very cultivated and I think you'll take a liking to them."

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For the first time in the entire evening you could see the true feelings on Ariadne's face as Germany was mentioned. The disgust and hate for the German would be clear to everyone in the room. "I will not be in the same room with and certainly not sit at the same table as the fascists. I am willing to have the Magistrate of European Affairs attend a meeting but I personally will not attend."

Valerio significantly less digusted by the German state but still heavily opposed would offer a bit of nuance. "I agree with Ariadne that it is way too soon for top level meetings however we will consider it at a later point after lower level ones have been held."

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Theresia smiled, but her eyes connected with Adler and Kant as the Foreign Ministers shuffled nervously in their seats. "Well it would appear that we have a mutual understanding of hatred." The Empress said taking a great gulp of wine. "And Valerio, I believe talking at a ball would be as low level as you can get. Trust me, both of you, I'm not trying to force Athens to like Germany and I'm not forcing the Germans to appreciate your presence either. Of course, Ariadne, if you can't bear the thought of seeing the German Representatives and I'm sure they share your stance, I can simply invite your respected diplomats to the ball." Then she waved her head. "But that is enough of the subject, you will get your invitations soon, whether you choose to accept is up to you."

Pushing her plate in front of her, the Empress yawned and pushed herself away from the table. "But that is all the political business I have to discuss this evening. If there is anything left we need to talk about, we can retire to the parlor for tea."

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