Vol 1, No 21
15 November 1999
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 November 1999
Vienna braced itself on Friday 12 November for a massive demonstration under the slogan "no coalition with racism." The main goal of the organizers is to express their opposition to the potential participation of Jorg Haider's Freedom Party (FPO) in the government. The largest rally of the Austrian second republic, Lichtmeer (sea of candles), which rallied 300,000 people against racism in the Austrian capital on 23 January 1993, was held up as an example to emulate, even if Max Koch, a spokesman of the organization committee, stated that the presence of at least 15,000 demonstrators would be considered "a great success."
On the same day, the 81st anniversary of the foundation of the Austrian Republic, Chancellor Viktor Klima gave his support to the demonstration, arguing that the rally should be "a symbol that, in Austria and in Europe, human rights, democracy and the protection of minorities are ' the basis of coexistence.'"
Also on Friday, Jorg Haider delivered a speech in which he distanced himself from racism and National Socialism, saying, "I am an enthusiastic Austrian democrat who cannot and will not accept brown shadows."
This declaration followed an interview given by Haider to the Washington Post (Wednesday 10 November edition), in which he expressed regrets about his statements about the SS and Nazi labour policies. "If I have hurt the feelings of [some] people, I deplore it and apologize for this," he said. In the same article, Haider also declared himself in favour of Austrian participation to NATO, saying, "Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are now members and in between lies Austria, who holds on to its permanent neutrality. This does not make any sense."
Haider, however, to Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman's concern, linked Czech membership in the European Union to the abrogation of the Benes decrees and to compensations for the expelled Sudeten Germans. According to their own statistics, about 180,000 Sudeten Germans currently reside in Austria.
Negotiations between the four parliamentary parties concerning the elaboration of a governmental programme and a government are still going on.
On Wednesday, a third round of negotiations took place between the Socialists (SPO) and the Conservatives (OVP). Further meetings between the current coalition partners will be held on 20 and 24 November, but the two parties have at this stage agreed on an "anti-Proporz package." These measures intend to limit the influence of political parties on appointments in the civil service and aim to replace the notoriously clientelist system by a selection through fair entrance examinations. The FPO and the Greens reacted positively, if with caution, to the announcement. On Thursday, it was the turn of the OVP and FPO to meet for the second time.
Finally, the Slovak atomic plant of Bohunice still provokes controversy in Austria. Although the European Union has declared itself satisfied with the proposed closing date of 2006 to 2008, Barbara Prammer, Austrian minister for the protection of consumers, told EU Commissionner for Enlargement Gunther Verheugen that Austria expected Slovakia to close the plant in 2000. An Austrian veto against Slovak EU membership remains unlikely, however. Chancellor Klima hopes for a negotiated solution, and leading OVP politicians such as Ursula Stenzel and State Secretary Benita Ferrero-Waldner firmly oppose the idea of an Austrian veto against Slovakia.
Magali Perrault, 12 November 1999
Some Useful Websites (in German)
http://www.orf.at (Austrian TV)
http://www.apa.at (Austrian Press Agency)
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