Central Europe Review Balkan Information Exchange
Vol 2, No 36
23 October 2000
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Austrian NewsNews from Austria
All the important news
since 16 October

Magali Perrault

 

Regional elections in Styria

The People's Party (ÖVP) and the incumbent governor of Styria, Waltraud Klasnic, scored an impressive victory in the Land elections of 15 October. With 47.29 per cent of the votes, the ÖVP increased its share by more than 11 per cent compared to the last elections of 1995. The party now has 27 seats in the regional assembly (six more than before).

The Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) now has 32.32 per cent of the votes (a decrease of 3.61 per cent compared to 1995), the Freedom Party (FPÖ) 12.41 per cent (a decrease of 4.74 per cent), and the Greens have 5.61 per cent (a gain of 1.3 per cent).

Voter turnout was 74.63 per cent.

Party Number of Seats
People's Party 27
Social Democratic Party 19
Freedom Party 7
The Greens 3

 

Freedom Partythe loser

The Freedom Party was widely seen to be the great loser of the Styrian elections. Some of its leading politicians (and especially the governor of Carinthia, Jörg Haider) have begun to openly criticise the People's Partythe FPÖ's coalition partner at the federal level.

Regional elections will be held in December this year in Burgenland and in March 2001 in Vienna.

The elections in Vienna, a Social Democratic stronghold, are likely to be a crucial test for the government. The Freedom Party unofficially launched its electoral campaign this week with a meeting that included speeches by the controversial leader of the Viennese FPÖ, Hilmar Kabas, and Haider.

Kabas argued that "55 years of socialism was more than enough for Vienna" and opposed immigration and the recent decision of the SPÖ to give foreigners access to town council accommodation.

 

EU enlargement

Haider repeated this week that EU enlargement should be preceded by a referendum in Austria.

The regional branch of the Freedom Party in Burgenland has announced that it would start to collect the 10,000 signatures required to call a referendum on EU enlargement at the regional level on 26 October. Should the FPÖ manage to gather enough signatures, a referendum could be held in early 2001.

According to the regional party leader Stefan Salzl, a referendum in Burgenland could pave the way for a consultation at the federal level. Salzl denied that the FPÖ was against EU enlargement but argued that the process should not be "too quick and against the will of the population."

 

Compensation for victims of Nazi era

The Austrian government is due to sign on Tuesday a bilateral agreement with the US and its Central and East European neighbours on the compensation of victims of Nazi concentration and slave labour camps. The agreement is to be followed by the start of negotiations on the issue of Aryanisationconcerning the, mostly Jewish, property confiscated by the Nazis after the Anschluss.

Yet, the newsmagazine Profil revealed that the US lawyer Jay Fialkoff had launched a new series of claims against Austria and Austrian firms, such as VA-Stahl, OMV, Steyr and Raiffeisen Zentralbank. Fialkoff described the 150 million Schillings pledged by the Austrian government as insufficient and stated that the victims had been waiting for compensation for 60 years.

The leader of Vienna's Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, noted that his organisation would not make further claims but expressed his sympathy for the frustration of the victims.

 

Lauda Air

The airline company Lauda Air, founded and led by the former Formula One driver Niki Lauda, is in an extremely difficult financial situation. A battle for the ownership and leadership of the company has started. A meeting of the board of directors on Thursday decided to launch an inquiry into Lauda's decision on Wednesday to either sell or lease back five planes of the company's fleet without having informed the board.

Lauda Air's majority shareholder, Austrian Airlines (which owns 35.88 per cent of the company) thinks that Lauda acted in breach of the firm's regulations. Niki Lauda defended the sale as a move to improve the company's financial situation, also stating that Austrian Airlines is leading the fight against his leadership. Lauda further claims that he has the support of Lufthansa, which owns 20 per cent of Lauda Air (Lauda himself holds 30 per cent of Lauda Air's shares).

 

And in other news...

  • The infrastructure minister, Michael Schmid (FPÖ), had to make a public apology after he was caught using a mobile phone while at the wheel of his car—an infringement of the law. Schmid will be fined and noted that he was and remains a supporter of the prohibition of mobile phone use while driving, because it "increases the safety on the roads."
  • The Freedom Party is still at the centre of the major controversy owing to revelations made earlier this month that some leading figures of the party had access to data concerning political and media personalities known to be opponents of the party. The interior minister, Ernst Strasser, has so far refused to release the names of those involved, arguing that "name dropping" would hinder the work of the parliamentary commission which has been set up to investigate the affair.
  • Negotiations on Thursday between the social affairs minister, Elisabeth Sickl, and advocates representing pensioners failed to produce an agreement on next year's pensions adjustment. The government has refused to increase pensions by more than 1.5 per cent.
  • The Ministry of the Interior reported that it had received bomb threats from the Palestinian terrorist organisation Abu Nidal. This follows the arrest in Vienna at the beginning of the year of an alleged member of the organisation, who was trying to transfer ATS 109 million (USD seven million) to a bank account believed to be used to finance Abu Nidal's activities.

Magali Perrault, 20 October 2000

Moving on:

Sources:

Der Standard
Die Presse
Kurier
Profil
ORF (Austrian TV)
APA (Austrian Press Agency)

 

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