Should the EU diplomatically isolate Austria if the Freedom Party becomes part of the government coalition? : LUSENET : rebecca's irregulars : One Thread

The European Union has threatened to diplomatically isolate Austria if the anti-immigrant Freedom Party enters the Austrian coalition government. The Freedom Party's leader, Jorg Haider has offended many people with his seemingly Nazi-sympathetic remarks. Haider's reaction: "if the president and other parties bow to foreign pressure, 'then we might as well abolish democracy in this country straight away.'"

I'm not sure what I think if this. Surely nations standing up against "behavior of a racist or xenophobic character" is positive; but what are the ramifications of the EU diplomatically isolating another country whose view are not in line with theirs? What if the views were reversed? On the other hand, prevailing feeling creates current standards. Is this just reality? I know that if other countries were threatening to take diplomatic action after an individual was elected to the US government, my knee-jerk would be that the American people's democratic process--as lousy as it can be--should not be circumvented by any other country's demands.

What do you think?

-- rebecca blood (, February 02, 2000


charlie wrote: you could make the same argument for states' rights here in the U.S of A.

could you? my history isn't good. is there an example of the federal government threatening action against a state if they allowed a duly elected representative to serve in the state government?

actually, the analogy *I* thought of was of US sanctions against Iraq. does it make a difference if the leader is elected in a democratic election or not? I would think so, but *should* it?

charlie: nations have, for years, brought diplomatic pressure to bear against countries for outrageous anti-human rights behavior. austria should be no exception. besides, *he's* the one moving to curtail democracy in austria.

well, I don't want to come off as a Haider supporter. he's made some very questionable remarks. politically, he's talking about limiting? stopping? immigrations into his country from other, particular countries.

the US has limits on immigrations from different countries. I have heard that if you're Irish, for example, it's not that difficult to immigrate to the US. if you're from kenya, it may be. the numbers are different for different countries.

the question that's most interesting to me here concerns the propriety of other governments proposing sanctions if a duly elected leader takes office. note that these sanctions aren't based on actions that leader has taken, or actions the country has taken under that leader. merely the words spoken by that individual before he was in office.

-- rebecca blood (, February 02, 2000.

you could make the same argument for states' rights here in the U.S of A.

nations have, for years, brought diplomatic pressure to bear against countries for outrageous anti-human rights behavior. austria should be no exception. besides, *he's* the one moving to curtail democracy in austria.

-- charlie mccurdy (, February 02, 2000.

I think this is defintely a bad idea. Surely it stands to reason that isolating a country in any way will surely increase nationlist feelings.

Also, by cutting them off it removes any influence that the EU might otherwise have had.

Obviously we can't condone facism but turning our backs and ignoring it is the best way to allow it to spread.

-- Ivan (, February 03, 2000.

What has the world come to? No one ever tried diplomatic isolation for the 40 years that Austria had Communists (er, Social Democrats) at the major part of their government. Now, some significant part of that population has decided they've had enough of the leftists, and asked for the other end of the scale to participate. If the world did not condem the leftists, why condem the rightists?

Take a closer look at Haider, and you certainly will not find the Nazi lover that some of the poorly informed press tries to present. He is really a lot more like the US's Pat Buchanan than Hitler. Isolationist, yes. Xenophobic, yes. Tyranical, no. Go look at his record in Corinthia. Equally useful is to look closely at Austria for Neo-Nazi activity. It is virtually non-existant, especially when compared to its northern neighbor.

Don't get me wrong. Personally, I wouldn't vote for Haider. But, neither can I easily condem him or support driving his country into diplomatic isolation.

-- Bob Easton (, February 06, 2000.

Deep breath. Time for some facts here.

Austria's a *member* of the EU. To become a member of the EU, you have to sign up to certain principles of national conduct, and to a whole welter of Union-wide legislation, covering certain freedoms. European law takes precedence over national law within those treaty obligations, which is why the European Court becomes the court of last appeal across the EU.

Citizens of one EU country have the same rights to live and work in other EU countries as citizens of those countries. The manifesto of the Freedom Party expresses a desire to curb inward migration and immigrant employment rights in a way which is contrary to the obligations that Austria signed up to when it became a member of the EU.

If you don't play by the rules, you can't be a member of the club. Simple as that.

-- Nick Sweeney (, February 06, 2000.

The NY Times report to which Rebecca links isn't necessarily the most helpful or accurate commentary on the situation with regard to the EU's diplomatic sanctions against Austria. For a British perspective, from the admittedly left-of-centre Guardian, this is a good link to follow:

-- Nick Sweeney (, February 06, 2000.

I'm not sure the EU should be doing this; it sets a poor precedent.

Returning to Charlie's question, yes, the US did reject duly elected representatives, during Reconstruction. We rejected states based on their constitutions, their elected governments ... and refused to seat national representatives, at various times. I don't think anything comparable has happened in this century, though.

Europe is inching toward a federal system, but they aren't there yet. States within the EU have ceded sovereignty only within certain carefully-defined areas. So far, they retain the right to elect their own governments.

As much distaste as I have for Haider, I don't think joining the governing majority party and having members of his party in government posts is worth this kind of reaction. These acts of isolation should have been held in reserve until the Austrian government took real actions that were objectionable. This has probably only served to strengthen the hand of the Austrian Freedom Party in the meantime.

-- Dan Hartung (, February 06, 2000.

(I don't like having my contributions be always at the top, so....)

Dan expresses my exact reservation about this action: the party has been sworn into the government, but the government hasn't *done* anything yet: they haven't had time.

Further, like Dan, I wonder if taking this action at this time will be *effective*, or will simply provoke resistance on the part of the Austrian people to being "punished" for electing an undesirable faction.

I will be most interested in seeing the *actions* that come from this coalition government.


-- rebecca blood (, February 06, 2000.

I agree that the new Austrian government has to be judged on its actions, and not on the provocative statements of the past. That said, parties are elected on manifestos, and those manifestos have to regarded as the basis of future policy. The Freedom Party's manifesto is manifestly at odds with Austria's EU treaty obligations: the Portuguese foreign minister put it well when he said "If a party which has expressed xenophobic views, and which does not abide by the essential values of the European family, comes to power, naturally we won't be able to continue the same relations as in the past, however much we regret it."

Remember that the motivating force behind the EEC, now the EU, was to create a Europe that might be free of the threat of fascism and xenophobia.

Since the US doesn't follow the parliamentary model that's common in Europe, it's hard to make analogies: but if one of the States elected a Governor on a mandate which was blatantly unconstitutional, wouldn't it be the case that Federal sanctions would follow, in the form of a Supreme Court judgement? (This isn't a rhetorical question, as my knowledge of the US political system is hazy at best.)

What rankles, personally, is that neither the Freedom Party nor the People's Party (their right-of-centre coalition partners) won anything like a popular mandate: the "winning" party (the left-of- centre Social Democrats) has found itself in opposition. Had the Social Democrat leaders been smarter, they'd have called for new elections while coalition negotiations were in stalemate. One of the disadvantages of proportional representation is that it can give disproportionate bargaining power to minority parties, which by their nature tend to represent extreme positions.

-- Nick Sweeney (, February 07, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ