Towards an end to sanctions?
The three "wise men" appointed by the EU to prepare a report on Austria - former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Spanish Foreign Minister Marcelino Oreja and the German constitutional jurist Jochen Frowein - are now close to making their conclusions official. According to the magazine News, the report is expected to be favourable to the People's Party (ÖVP)-Freedom Party (FPÖ) coalition, and could pave the way for an end of the bilateral political sanctions on the country.
The decision will however ultimately be taken by French President (and current EU President) Jacques Chirac, who could either decide to bring the sanctions to an end before the end of September (and the Danish referendum on the Euro on 28 September 2000), or delay the process. Chirac is due to meet his Austrian counterpart Thomas Klestil on 6 September in New York.
Coalition crisis ended
The crisis between the ÖVP and the FPÖ over the role of the government adviser on EU enlargement Erhard Busek apparently ended on Tuesday when Busek received the support of the Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, who confirmed that Busek will continue to advise Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
Busek, a former vice-chancellor and leader of the ÖVP, is a renowned expert on Central European affairs and a committed supporter of EU enlargement. Appointed in February as government adviser, some of his enthusiastic declarations on enlargement and highly critical comments on Jörg Haider had infuriated the Freedom Party, whose grandees had in turn asked for his dismissal.
Austrian security council
Defence Minister Herbert Scheibner (FPÖ) this week proposed the creation, within the Austrian government, of a "security council," which is to contribute to the redefinition of the country's military doctrine and facilitate the coordination of security policy at a domestic and international level.
Scheibner is known to favour the integration of neutral Austria into EU-led security structures as well as, in the longer term, NATO (an idea which is strongly opposed by the two opposition parties, the Social Democrats and the Greens).
The latest polls
According to an opinion poll conducted by OGM, 74 percent of Austrians are satisfied with the government, and the ÖVP receives the support of 32 percent of the voters, in front of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) (29 percent), the FPÖ (23 percent) and the Greens (13 percent).
The demand of the FPÖ for the abrogation of the Beneš decrees to be made a precondition to the Czech membership of the EU has been rejected by 45 percent of Austrians (34 percent support it) (ORF, 02/09/2000).
Budget equilibrium by 2002?
On Friday 1 September, the government presented its plans to reach budget equilibrium by 2002. According to Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser (FPÖ), the state budget deficit should reach 0.75 percent of the GDP by 2001 (1.6 percent in 2000), a result which is to be achieved by an increase of taxation for the highest salaries, the suppression of 15,000 posts in the civil service, and a financial contribution from the regional authorities (Länder).
Magali Perrault, 2 September 2000
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ORF (Austrian TV)
APA (Austrian Press Agency)