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The BBC's Angus Roxburgh reports
"The stage is set for a show down"
 real 28k

The BBC's Clare Doole in Vienna
"A no win situation"
 real 28k

Donald Anderson
"It does have consequences beyond the domestic"
 real 28k

Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 14:38 GMT
MEPs threaten sanctions against Austria

The European Parliament is watching Austria closely

Members of the European Parliament have rallied behind the campaign against the far-right Freedom Party joining the Austrian government.

A vote in the Strasbourg Parliament backed by 406 to 53 the threat of political and diplomatic sanctions against Vienna in protest at the "insulting, xenophobic and racist" statements issued by party leader Joerg Haider "over many years".

Voting rights

There were 60 abstentions at the end of a two-day debate which said EU governments had to be prepared to invoke EU treaty rules withdrawing voting and other rights from Austria if the coalition goes ahead.

UK Labour MEP Glyn Ford said: "Some say that it is not right for us to interfere in Austrian politics. They are wrong.

"Some say we have to accept the outcome of democratic elections - but elections do not always make democrats."

Joerg Haider Joerg Haider: Praise for Hitler
But an amendment tabled by Labour MEP Richard Howitt which would have brought the Parliament into line with statements by the heads of government only got about 100 votes out of a potential 500.

A total of 14 of the 15 member state governments have withdrawn technical co-operation from the Austrian government.

Mr Howitt said: "I did want it to go further, many MEPs on the backbenches said we should cut off political relations with the Austrian government and match the promise made by the Portuguese government on behalf of the different countries in the European Union."

Austrian President Thomas Klestil is expected to decide on Thursday whether Mr Haider's party can take up posts in government.


Mr Klestil has already made clear his unhappiness at seeing the Freedom Party enter into government, and is seeking a written commitment from Mr Haider he will not reject democratic values and split Austria from the mainstream European political order.

Mr Haider won international notoriety after praising Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's "orderly" employment policies and lauding veterans of genocidal Waffen SS as "men of honour".

He has also spoken out against the EU's future expansion and predicted that the new government will impose a nearly complete ban on immigration.

The UK government has yet to respond to the proposed coalition but Donald Anderson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he believed the Foreign Office's response would be similar to that of the other European governments.

William Hague: Austria is a democracy
He said: "There needs to be a clear expression of disapproval and there will be a co-ordinated response from European governments on a bi-lateral basis to isolate Austria in various ways."

Mr Anderson pointed out that under the Amsterdam Treaty action can only be taken when there is clear violation of human rights.

But he added: "The fact of having an extreme right party in an EU government does lead to certain consequence and does call for action from individual governments.

"It does have consequences beyond the domestic in a sense it may have adverse consequences on other European governments. It effects the values that we in Europe espouse.

"There is a problem for the EU as such. For all of us know that Haider, in opportunist ways, has signed things before he has retracted his statements but in fact he feeds ultra nationalist view, he encourages those views, attracts them around him and I think it would be wholly wrong for Europe to sit back and say business as usual."

Conservative leader William Hague has said any decision as to how Austria chooses its government should be left to the Austrians themselves.

Mr Hague said: "Of course there's concern about some of the remarks [made by Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider] but at the same time Austria is a democracy and it's up to the people who's in power in Austria. We should see what happens."

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See also:
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider
02 Feb 00 |  Europe
Joerg Haider: Key quotes
02 Feb 00 |  Media reports
Europe's press differs over Haider
02 Feb 00 |  Europe
Israel threat over Austrian coalition
31 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: What the action would mean
31 Jan 00 |  Europe
Haider's Austrian charm offensive

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