Vol 2, No 4
31 January 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 24 January 2000
After the collapse of the talks between Social-Democrats (SPÖ) and Conservatives (ÖVP) last week, the incumbent Chancellor and SPÖ chairman, Viktor Klima, attempted to form a minority government.
However, the ÖVP and Jörg Haider's Freedom Party (FPÖ) firmly rejected the idea of a SPÖ-led minority government and Klima could only muster the (conditional) support of the fourth parliamentary group, the Greens, whose leader Alexander Van der Bellen did not exclude backing the Social-Democrats on certain specific issues such as the budget.
Some SPÖ leaders, such as the Home Office Minister Karl Schlögl, believe that the Social-Democrats should "start an open, critical dialogue" with the FPÖ, but Klima eventually announced on Wednesday that he rejected the idea forming a government and would instead become the leader of the social-democrat opposition.
On the same day, the end of the 13-year old SPÖ-ÖVP coalition was symbolically marked during the session of the National Assembly. The finance minister, Rudolf Edlinger (SPÖ), blamed the ÖVP for the failure of the negotiations, while Agriculture Minister Wilhelm Molterer (ÖVP) declared that "the ÖVP has conducted these negotiations...with great commitment, full openness and the goal to reach a result."
It is now up to the president, Thomas Klestil, to ask a leader of another parliamentary group to form a government. Klestil will next week meet with Haider and Wolfgang Schüssel (ÖVP chairman). The ÖVP and the FPÖ have indeed started talks which are widely expected to lead to a coalition agreement by next week (an ÖVP chancellor and a FPÖ vice-chancellor appears to be the most probable combination so far, with Haider remaining governor of the Land of Carinthia).
The prospect of the far right Freedom Party's participation in the government has however sent alarm bells ringing across the international community. Israel has taken the lead to denounce Haider's party and the Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin stated on Tuesday that Israel might recall its ambassador to Austria if the FPÖ participates in the government: "this is not an interference in [Austria's] internal affairs. We, the Jewish state, should not not give our agreement to that," no matter what the rest of the world thinks about it. Prime Minister Ehud Barak remained cautious but saw Austrian developments as a "distressing signal ... for every ...Jew in the world." Shimon Peres noted that "Hitler was Austrian and [referring to Haider] any man who raises so many doubts must also raise the alarm all over the world".
Concerns about Autria's future has also been expressed by European Union leaders. The president of the European parliament, Nicole Fontaine, remarked that "the party of Jörg Haider conveys an ideology, which embodies the opposite of humanist values": "the Union is based on values of respect, human rights... and the accession to power in a country of the EU of a party which rejects these fundamental principles would not be acceptable." The French president, Jacques Chirac, asked Klestil to keep him personally informed, and the Austrian president also met the Austrian EU Commissioner Franz Fischler at the Hofburg on Friday to discuss the negative impact of the possible inclusion of the FPÖ into the governmental coalition.
Maria Rauch-Kallat, the general secretary of the ÖVP, meanwhile assured that any coalition pact between her party and the FPÖ will include a clear commitment to Europe, to European values and to EU enlargement, as well as a pledge to adhere to a certain political culture and political style.
Magali Perrault, 28 January 2000
Some Useful Websites (in German)
http://www.orf.at (Austrian TV)
http://www.apa.at (Austrian Press Agency)
Copyright © 2000 - Central Europe Review and Internet servis, a.s.
All Rights Reserved