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Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 22:30 GMT
Europe's media bristle over Haider

Joerg Haider and media The Freedom Party's Joerg Haider faces the media


The prospect of Joerg Haider's Freedom Party becoming part of the new Austrian Government has been met with concern by the press elsewhere in Europe, while Austrian newspapers have criticised what they regard as the unjustified attacks on their country.

"Austria is about to score a sad first in the European Union with the participation in government of a demagogic and xenophobic party whose leader not long ago sang the praises of the 'employment policy' carried out in Hitler's Reich," said France's Le Monde.

The paper described it as "far from reassuring" that the party had come second in last October's parliamentary elections.

This, it said, "flattered the basest feelings of a people whose living standards are among the highest in Europe but who would no longer put up with the socialists and conservatives continuing to share power and the material fruits of power".

Austrian 'apathy'

The Liberation newspaper was puzzled by what it called Austrians' apathy in the face of the rise of the far right.

"While the international community has already reacted strongly to the possibility of seeing the far right in government, in Austria itself there has been little or no response," it said, adding that local media were simply "recording developments".

Italy's Corriere Della Sera noted that the 1986 Nobel peace laureate and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel had pledged not to set foot in Vienna if the far-right joined the government.

"Chancellor Viktor Klima has invited me to give a conference in Austria," the paper quoted him as saying, "but if Haider's party joins the government I don't think I'll go."

The Czech daily Lidove Noviny called the Freedom Party "repugnant and unpopular" and Mr Haider a "demagogue".

But, it concluded, "when all is said and done, there is no point in the rest of the world opposing Haider, seen and feared as he is abroad as the embodiment of Nazism, because he will make it into the government eventually".

Dilemma for EU

Several papers noted the quandary in which Austrian developments had placed the EU.

"What can, what should the EU do in the face of a government in one member country which includes forces that espouse values that do not correspond with those that underpin the union?" Le Monde asked.

"The Austrian affair will have consequences for everyone. First of all for the image of the Union. It goes down badly in the middle of enlargement discussions in which the EU is repeatedly demanding that candidates adhere to its values."

Liberation noted that despite a general distaste for Mr Haider, the 15 EU members had been unable to agree on a common approach.

"The possibility of soon having to sit down at the same table as an admirer of Hitler - even if he has repented - pleases no one.

"However, the 15 have still not agreed on a common stance even if they all want to make Vienna understand that such a coalition would lead to the country's isolation."

Austria retaliates

In Austria itself, newspapers have taken umbrage at the international criticism.

"Austria is not a Nazi country," ran the headline in the popular Kronen Zeitung.

"Austria is a stable, democratic country firmly anchored in the European Union and will stay that way."

Der Standard described the foreign coverage of Mr Haider's party as "furious and without a doubt unjust". Its inclusion in a government coalition "would not immediately make Austria into a Nazi republic".

Fight for survival

The conservative Die Presse argued that the international outcry was partly motivated by political considerations.

It noted that European parties on the right and left were afraid of the impact of new populist parties.

"(Many conservatives and Christian Democrats) are, like the Social Democrats, suffering as a result of corruption, wear and tear and splits.

"From Flanders to France, they are afraid of the blossoming of the new populists on the right. For them it's not a question of Austria but of their own political survival," it said.

The paper also hit out at Austrian politicians for likening Mr Haider's party to the Nazis to safeguard their own position.

"If the Freedom Party were taboo, then no government would be possible without the Social Democratic Party," it said.

Recent statements by Austrian President Thomas Klestil "must have given poorly-informed foreigners the impression that the Freedom Party members were really such street urchins they shouldn't be allowed into the noble government palace".

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:
29 Jan 00 |  Europe
Europe clamour grows over Haider
28 Jan 00 |  Europe
Austrian far-right prompts EU fears
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider
28 Jan 00 |  Europe
Call for calm over Austrian far-right
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Move to thwart far-right leader
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Conservatives defend Haider talks

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