Vol 2, No 10
13 March 2000
C E N T R A L E U R O P E A N N E W S:
News Review for Austria
All the important news from Austria
since 6 March 2000
Austria's politicians have began a diplomatic campaign to try to break the isolation of the country since the swearing in of the governmental coalition between the People's Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party (FPÖ).
President Thomas Klestil was in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday and attempted to plead Austria's case in front of the European Union institutions. After a meeting with the president of the Commission, Romano Prodi, he called for an end of the bilateral sanctions against Austria and expressed the hope that the 14 EU partners of the Alpine republic would "give the Austrian government a chance and judge them according to what they do."
On Thursday, it was the turn of the chairman of the largest opposition party, the Social-Democrat Alfred Gusenbauer to appeal to the EU. He expressed his pessimism concerning the possibility of a speedy end of the sanctions but insisted that sanctions taken against Austria at local or regional levels (such as the end of educational exchanges) were not legitimate and justified.
Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel will meet Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres on Monday 13 March. Portugal holds the EU presidency for the first half of the year and the meeting will take place in preparation to the European summit on 23 and 24 March. The talks, originally scheduled to take place in Vienna, will be held on "neutral" ground in Brussels, following the freezing of the bilateral relations between Austria and its EU partners.
Meanwhile, Jörg Haider, who last week resigned from the leadership of the Freedom Party, provoked further controversy when on Wednesday he described French president Jacques Chirac as a "pocket Napoleon of the twenty-first century." Haider went on to criticise Klestil for what he saw as his role in trying to prevent the participation of the FPÖ to the government.
On Thursday, FPÖ Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer reasserted the commitment of the government and her party to EU enlargement: "Yes to a well-prepared EU enlargement." She was reacting to a statement by Infrastructure Minister Michael Schmid (FPÖ) who had argued that enlargement would bring "real problems."
The government was also due to announce the appointment of former vice-chancellor and ÖVP Chairman Erhard Busek as the government adviser for EU enlargement on Tuesday 14 March. Busek is currently the head of the Viennese-based Institute for the Danube Basin and Central Europe and has long been held as a supporter of eastward enlargement.
Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser (FPÖ) controversially started to draft the state budget and set out to change the way budgetary negotiations are conducted. Grasser's intention to "impose" massive budgetary cuts on his ministerial colleagues was for example criticised by Education Minister Elisabeth Gehrer (ÖVP) and Defence Minister Herbert Scheibner (FPÖ).
A Gallup opinion poll published in News gave the social-democratic party 31 percent of the votes (+1 compared to the previous week). The FPÖ obtained 27 percent (-2 since the resignation of Haider), the ÖVP 23 percent (+2) and the Greens 16 percent (stable).
Magali Perrault, 10 March 2000
Some Useful Websites (in German)
http://www.orf.at (Austrian TV)
http://www.apa.at (Austrian Press Agency)
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