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The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"The British Government has sent an unmistakable message of disapproval"
 real 28k

Tory MP David Wilshire
"We are dragging Prince Charles into party politics"
 real 28k

Freedom Party's John Gudunus
I'm sad that Prince Charles isn't coming to Austria
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 10:44 GMT
Charles' Austria boycott attacked

Prince Charles: Vienna visit on hold Prince Charles: Vienna visit on hold


The UK government has been criticised for advising the Prince of Wales to cancel a trip to Vienna amid outrage at the far-right Freedom Party's inclusion in Austria's government.

A spokesman for Prince Charles said the decision was taken after the postponement of a British trade fair in Vienna which he had been due to visit in May.

Austria is facing increasing international isolation and domestic controversy over the inclusion of Joerg Haider's party in the power-sharing government.

The Foreign Office has confirmed that it had advised the Prince of Wales' of the implications of the now cancelled official visit.

But opposition MPs attacked the cancellation, saying that it was "impertinent" to deem the democratically-elected government of Austria unacceptable.

'Wait and see'

Tory MP David Wilshire, member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said the UK should wait and see how the Austrian Government would perform.

"I have got no time for some of the things Haider has said and I am not a racist," he said.

"But nonetheless I am absolutely amazed at the way members of the European Union and other countries have reacted.

"At this stage it could well have been left to see what the Austrian Government was going to do.

"At the moment they haven't done anything, they haven't been the government long enough for us to disapprove of them.

"By involving Prince Charles at this stage, we are dragging him into party politics."

Mr Wilshire said that the European Union's reaction to the politicial furore - member states have frozen political contacts with Austria - could have damaging implications for the UK.

He said: "In future, presumably the British public will have to seek the appoval of Brussels before they are allowed to vote for any particular party, just in case Brussels does not approve of some British political party."

'Saddened'

His views were echoed by fellow Conservative MP Nicholas Winterton, chairman of the All-Party Group on Austria.

"I am saddened that our Royal Family and the proposed visit by Prince Charles have been dragged into this matter on the advice of the Foreign Office," he said.

"The Foreign Office has in the past been known to be wrong. I suspect that it is wrong on this occasion."

'Visit unthinkable'

But Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell welcomed the decision.

"It would have been unthinkable for Prince Charles to have fulfilled this engagement," he said.

"The Austrian Government is on probation. Normal service cannot be resumed until it has proved its good faith."

The Britain Now trade show had been due to take place in Vienna and Feldkirch in May and would have featured UK exporters and showcasing home-grown culture and fashion.

A spokesman for the Prince of Wales said: "In the light of the current circumstances, the Prince of Wales's visit to Austria has been postponed.

"A decision about a future visit will be considered in due course.

"The Prince of Wales, like other senior members of the Royal family, travels overseas on the advice of the government."

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See also:
09 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Royals dragged into Haider row
08 Feb 00 |  Europe
Austrian coalition survives challenge
08 Feb 00 |  Europe
EU trims meeting amid Austria fears
07 Feb 00 |  Europe
Austria's racial paradox
01 Feb 00 |  Europe
Profile: Controversy and Joerg Haider

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