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EU threatens Austria over far right party

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  • alm@znet.com
    source: ITN, UK EU threatens Austria over far right party The European Commission held an hour-long emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss European Union
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2000
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      source: ITN, UK

      EU threatens Austria over far right party

      The European Commission held an hour-long emergency meeting on
      Tuesday to discuss European Union members' threat to sever political ties
      with any Austrian government which included the far right Freedom Party

      Austria's 14 EU partners on Monday took the unprecedented step of
      threatening the country with political sanctions if the Freedom Party is
      included in a coalition..

      They warned they could freeze bilateral relations with the Austria. By
      engaging in public arm-twisting, rather than exerting pressure via the
      usual
      diplomatic channels, Austria's 14 EU partners have signalled the extent of
      their anxiety about Haider, his party and the implications for EU
      enlargement.

      There is concern because the leader of the party, Joerg Haider, has in the
      past made remarks which played down the crimes of the Nazis. His party is
      also hostile to East European immigrants and is opposed the EU's
      enlargement plans

      He has apologised several times for the Nazi remarks. Even though his
      party has campaigned against "overpopulation by foreigners" and EU
      expansion, Mr Haider says he now supports the principle of enlargement.

      After the EU meeting one official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
      said
      "When 14 members of the council of ministers move to partially isolate
      the 15th member it is a serious situation...you would expect the
      Commission to discuss it."

      He noted the Commission is responsible for overseeing the EU's founding
      treaty and assessing whether steps taken by member countries are legal.

      He declined to speculate on what, if any, action the Commission might be
      able to take.

      The Freedom Party is close to agreeing a deal with the conservative
      People's Party to form a coalition government.

      Negotiations to form a ruling alliance followed inconclusive elections
      four
      months ago. Austria's centre-left Social Democrat party has headed all of
      the country's governments for the past 30 years.

      EU rules allow for the suspension of a member state in "serious and
      persistent breach" of any of its main principles: liberty, democracy,
      respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.

      Austria's political leaders are also to meet to discuss the
      implications of a
      EU threat to freeze bilateral relations.

      The Freedom party leader has said he was appalled at the EU's lack of
      respect for democracy, has already warned Klestil and Schuessel not to
      bow to foreign pressure.

      "If the president and the parties let themselves be influenced by this
      attempted foreign pressure on Austria, then we might as well abolish
      democracy in this country straight away," Mr Haider said.

      Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen said Austria's mainstream parties
      were largely responsible for the situation and urged them to patch up
      their
      differences.

      "The Social Democrats and conservatives should try to find a solution to
      their disagreements in order to protect the democratic development and
      the international status of Austria."

      The Social Democrats, who have always ruled out a coalition with Haider's
      party, may be prepared to reopen talks with Schuessel. "No option is ruled
      out," said a senior party source.
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