Vienna, 1 February 2000/P/K/16709c-is

In a communiqué issued today, the International Progress Organization (I.P.O.) criticized yesterday's statement issued by the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union as outright interference into the internal affairs of Austria. The President of the I.P.O., Professor Hans Köchler, explained that the joint statement of 14 EU member states threatening not to promote or accept any bilateral official contacts at political level with an Austrian Government including the Freedom Party (FPÖ) constitutes a blatant violation of the principle of national sovereignty which is the cornerstone of international law and which is binding upon all member states of the EU.

By issuing this statement, the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union acted ultra vires and blatantly abused its rights under the Treaty on European Union. As a multilateral office within the framework of the European Treaties, the Presidency of the European Union has absolutely no competence to act on or co-ordinate bilateral policies of EU member states vis-à-vis another member state.

The threats contained in the joint statement by 14 member states furthermore undermine the very legitimacy of the European Union which is based upon the principle of solidarity among all member states.

The President of the I.P.O. explained that the statement issued by the Portuguese Presidency in transgression of its authority has nothing to do with the procedures outlined in Art. 7 of the Treaty of Amsterdam. Those complex procedures for the imposition of repressive measures on a member state, involving the European Parliament and providing for the right of the accused state to be heard, exclusively relate to policies in violation of Art. 6 (1) of the Treaty, namely violations of the principles of freedom, democracy and human rights. It is beyond any doubt that the Republic of Austria has never violated the basic principles underlying the Treaty on European Union.

The International Progress Organization criticized the hypocritical nature of the statement of 14 member states that seem to follow a policy of double standards vis-à-vis Austria. It is obvious to international observers that anti-foreigner violence has been increasing in major EU countries over several years. Major member countries of the EU such as France, Spain and the United Kingdom have still not settled the problems of their ethnic minorities. France, in particular, continues a policy of interference in its former African colonies, including interference into democratic processes.

Threatening Austria with sanctions for mistakes it has not made and blaming a future government for violations of European principles before it even has been formed is tantamount to a policy of intimidation and interference that is incompatible with the spirit of co-operation underlying the Treaty on European Union. Demonizing the Freedom Party, the second biggest party of Austria, and trying to prevent it from joining a coalition government on the basis of democratic procedures and the rule of law constitutes in itself a non-democratic act that is incompatible with the European principles. Austria must not be made the scapegoat in a strategy of other EU countries to divert attention from their own inability to effectively halt racist and chauvinist tendencies.

The President of the I.P.O. expressed the organization's solidarity with the steadfast political forces of Austria and expressed the hope that the Austrian people will resist this interference into the democratic process as it did during the Presidential campaign of 1986. Professor Köchler explained that a dangerous precedent for the future of member state relations within the European Union will be created should the present campaign against Austria succeed. There is no alternative to accepting the democratic choice of the people of Austria.

END/AUSTRIA/EUROPEAN UNION/2000-02-01/P/K/16709c-is