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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 22:21 GMT
Right-wing leaders puzzled over Haider

Nicole Fontaine Nicole Fontaine at Madrid meeting


By Daniel Schweimler in Madrid

The leaders of many of the right wing and centrist parties in Europe are confused over what to do about Austria.

At a meeting in Madrid, Spain, many of the delegates criticised the extreme right-wing leader, Joerg Haider, and supported the European Union's action against Austria.

But the Austrian delegates warned against judging the situation too quickly.


Joerg Haider Joerg Haider has apologised for past remarks
The meeting was being held try to agree a joint programme for the next 10 years, but the meeting has been dominated by the situation in Austria.

Nicole Fontaine, President of the European Parliament, said the European Union had a responsibility to ensure that none of its members allowed discrimination and racism to flourish.

But she added that they had to respect the wishes of the Austrian people expressed in a free vote and should not move too quickly.



But they (Haider's party) have to adapt to us and we not to them
Ursula Stenzel, Conservative People's Party
Her views were shared by the Austrian delegates in Madrid.

Ursula Stenzel, from the Conservative People's Party, the largest partner in the newly-formed coalition with Joerg Haider said: "We don't have in Austria any rightist extremist movement whatsoever and my party would never have gone into coalition with a rightist extremist party.

"You can say Haider's party is far right, I would say it's right of the centre.

"But they have to adapt to us and we not to them.


Madrid The meeting took place in Madrid
All delegates admitted they were concerned with the developments in Austria - an issue which is overshadowing the Madrid conference and forcing the delegates to rethink the vision of Europe they had come to Spain to discuss.

Most of the centre and conservative politicians at the conference are currently in opposition and even the host, the conservative Spanish Prime Minister, Jose-Maria Aznar, is under threat from a left-wing partnership in elections less than two months from now.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Austrian far-right enters government
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider's men and women
03 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: EU differences in spotlight

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