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Western Press Review: EU's Response To Austria

  • Jolyon Naegele



Prague, 3 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The lessons for Central and Eastern Europe contained in the EU's response to Austria's inclusion of a right-wing party in a coalition government are a recurring theme in Europe's dailies today, particularly in some newspapers seen as more left-oriented.

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: The EU cannot demand standards from the reform states that are in question in one of its youngest members

In Germany, the Frankfurter Rundschau says this in its editorial: "The threat of sanctions by the EU also focuses on the credibility of [EU] candidate countries neighboring Austria. The EU cannot demand standards from the reform states that are in question in one of its youngest members. Whether in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, or Hungary: pluralist democracy ten years after the collapse of communism is no longer exactly 'in.' It would really be a catastrophe if Austria proves to be a Central European model of inadequate transformation from authoritarian-bureaucratic structures to a civil society."

LIBERATION: Similar political figures must be warned in time

The Parisian daily Liberation warns that giving Haider what it calls "even the faintest legitimacy" would, in the paper's words "only serve to encourage similar political figures ... regardless of whether this concerns candidates from the countries of central or eastern Europe. That's why these people must be warned in time against having any ambitions."

IL MESSAGGERO: Knowing that the danger of exclusion exists is perhaps the most suitable means of intimidation

In Italy, Rome's daily Il Messaggero comments similarly, saying: "The European Union has decided in favor of eastward expansion, opening the door to the young democracies. These are countries where ethnic divisions continue to exist, where racism is a daily occurrence, where anti-Semitism never died out. Knowing that the danger of exclusion exists is perhaps the most suitable means of intimidation to allow more reliable democracies to become established."

But some of the more conservative-oriented papers are berating the EU for going too far in threatening to isolate Austria.

DAILY TELEGRAPH: We whip ourselves into a frenzy about an allegedly fascist clown

Britain's Daily Telegraph, in a commentary by Boris Johnson titled, "The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Humbug," says this: "If EU capitals are going to attack Vienna for allowing Haider's party into office, how much longer can they continue dialogue with London, which has admitted the representatives of unrepentant [IRA] terrorists into the government of the United Kingdom? The shunning of Austria is really just another excuse for the 'international community' to parade its conscience; as high minded and ill-thought out as the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia."

The British commentator continues: "No one objects to the presence of communists in Italy, and 80 million [people] died in the past century, thanks to the tyranny of communism... Did they never in their youth let fall a word in praise of Stalin or Lenin? In the persecution of Austria, we see, in a way, how the Left has won the Cold War."

The Daily Telegraph concludes: "The evils of communism are quietly sponged from the record, and we whip ourselves into a frenzy about an allegedly fascist clown."

ALGEMEEN DAGBLAD: The 14 other EU countries behaved very hastily

Similarly, the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad says this: "The 14 other EU countries behaved very hastily on Monday when they decided to reduce relations with Austria to a minimum. There had not yet even been a word about a government accord or a list of ministers and there had been absolutely no 'serious and lasting violation' of the EU principles that can be responded to with sanctions." But Brussels's action continues to gain support from many quarters.

SOIR: The brown plague is again on the march

The French tabloid France Soir comments that "the brown plague is again on the march." Its editorial says "Sure, Haider is no Hitler, just like Mussolini and Franco were no Hitler... Whether Haider and his supporters are real Nazis or are just very similar plays no role. What is important," the French paper continues, "is something quite different -- Haider delivers messages such as hate and racism, he praises the achievements of the Third Reich, and he does not shy away from expressing admiration for the creators of the concentration camps."

LA VANGUARDIA: The Freedom Party stands for the opposite of what the European Union stands for

In Spain, a commentary in the independent Barcelona daily La Vanguardia makes this prediction: "Austria will not give in to the pressure from state and government chiefs of the EU states and the U.S. It will not prevent a party from coming to power that is hostile to foreigners and right-wing radicals. The Freedom Party stands for the opposite of what the European Union stands for."

JERUSALEM POST: Europe's timely action -- and Israel's -- are necessary reinforcements of the post-Nazi taboo against the politics of racism

The Jerusalem Post comments today on the EU action, and on Israel's declaration that it would withdraw its ambassador if Haider's party gets into the government. The Post says the EU's warning was, in the paper's words, "a rare victory for universal values over complacency and the tendency to delay opposition to an emerging menace. Europe's timely action -- and Israel's -- are necessary reinforcements of the post-Nazi taboo against the politics of racism."

Some European dailies said Austria is at a historical crossroads.

STUTTGARTER ZEITUNG: Keeping Haider's party out of the government is no solution either

In the Stuttgarter Zeitung, a commentary by Paul Kreiner suggests Austrian President Thomas Klestil may have to resign. A decision by the president to allow the Freedom Party into government, the commentator says, "could have no worse consequences than were he to lose a vote of no confidence. Clearly, Klestil wants to save his own skin and wash his hands in innocence before the international community and his own people. The question of how successfully he maneuvered in the four months since the elections has fallen into the background."

But the Stuttgarter Zeitung concludes that keeping Haider's party out of the government is no solution either. It says: "That would only mobilize Haider. Austria has its calmest days behind it."

Meanwhile, in the eye of the storm, Austrian dailies worried about what the future holds.

DIE PRESSE: The stars of the EU have lost some of their brilliance

Friederika Leibel, in a commentary in the conservative Viennese daily Die Presse, remarks: "What remains is uncertainty. Anti-Europe forces -- such as in Scandinavia -- in these days have every reason to be happy. The old skepticism is picking up wind. The stars of the EU have lost some of their brilliance. Heavy polishing will not give them back their old shine."

SALZBURGER NACHRICHTEN: Joerg Haider is at a crossroads

The Salzburger Nachrichten comments: "Joerg Haider is at a crossroads: He can proceed in the direction of being a government politician aware of his responsibility who, at times, resorts to unpopular but necessary measures. He can also stay on the road of being a populist whose success is actually due to a mixture of verbal radicalism against his political opponents and unkeepable promises to the voters. Haider's renunciation of a cabinet seat or the chancellorship suggests he has decided on the latter alternative."

DER STANDARD: Austria has fallen from its cuckoo home in the clouds

Thomas Mayer, commenting in the liberal Viennese daily Der Standard, concludes: "Austria, to the surprise of many, has fallen from its cuckoo home in the clouds. Apparently only now will some people realize that joining the EU was more than just gaining economic advantages... Hostility to foreigners, disregard of human rights, and incitement of others will not be tolerated in the EU."

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