Tag Archives: EU

Austrian voters’ line-up with Pro-EU Parties


Not always known for its pro-EU sympathies, the electorate of Austria are this time round more firmly backing parties with pro-EU views.

The headlines I read in the international press often talk about the advance of the FPÖ alongside other Far-Right parties in the upcoming EU parliamentary elections. If you look at the current polling averages and compare them to the last election it would appear, at first glance, that we have another story of Far-Right, anti-EU advance in an EU member state. FPÖ 2009 12.7% now average poll figure 19.6%.

But wait. Let’s add a few footnotes:

  1. Austria is a country where opinion polls regularly show around 33% of the electorate as EU sceptic.
  2. Last election the FPÖ faced serious competition for the sceptic vote from the Martin List and the BZÖ.
  3. This time round there is no Martin List, the BZÖ dropped out of the national parliament last September and their lead candidate quit early in their campaign. The other anti-EU parties competing have few resources and represent no serious competition.
  4. In national politics the governing Grand Coalition of the SPÖ/ÖVP have had a bad start to their latest term in office.

In short, the FPÖ as the largest opposition party in Austria should have everything going for them. But that’s not how it’s playing out in the polls:

Average figures based on last five EU polls

  Polls Av Now Euro 2009 Change
SPO 23.4% 23.74% -0.3%
OVP 24.6% 29.98% -5.4%
FPO 19.6% 12.71% 6.9%
Greens 12.8% 9.93% 2.9%
Martin 0.0% 17.67% -17.7%
NEOS 13.2% 0.00% 13.2%
BZO 1.8% 4.58% -2.8%
REKOS 1.2% 0.00% 1.2%
Ander 1.4% 0.00% 1.4%

 

The pro-EU parties SPÖ/ÖVP/Grünen/NEOS have a combined figure of 74%. While the Populist EU sceptics FPÖ/BZÖ/REKO combined total is 22.6%.

Currently parties with a broadly pro-EU position are up +10% against the anti-EU camp.

I wrote the other day about the advance of the progressives alternatives in the national parliamentary polls. In the EU polls the gap between the progressive alternatives and the populists is currently larger:

Polls Av
Greens NEOS 26.0%
SPO OVP 48.0%
FPO BZO/REKOS 22.6%

 

One particular point of interest is that the party with the strongest pro-EU message, Neos, is making the largest impact in the election.  This Liberal Centrist party broke into the national parliament at the first attempt last September with just under 5% of the vote. They have now overtaken the Greens in the polls with an average figure of 13.2%. It seems the Party’s ‘We love Europe’ slogan is doing them no harm.

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“In a difficult time solidarity and love was stronger than selfishness and greed” says Austria’s Chancellor addressing the European parliament


Austrian Chancellor (in British terms Prime Minister) Werner Faymann today (15th January 2013) addressed the European Parliament – a rare event for a country’s leader who is not currently holding the Presidency of the EU. Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti have previously given speeches to the parliament.

Reports highlight the following key points made by the Chancellor:

  • “Only with social cohesion we can continue our peaceful development”
  • He called for everyone to fight youth unemployment and stressed the positive role of Austria’s guaranteed training system. Austria has the lowest unemployment in the EU and second lowest Youth unemployment.
  • The crisis in Europe has been mastered “better than in the 1930’s”. Moreover, without the EU a co-ordinated response on this scale would not have been possible. “If we strengthen Europe, we strengthen ourselves, if we weaken Europe, we weaken ourselves”.
  • He saw the rescue of the ESM as only the beginning of a European debt management speaking in favour of the redemption fund and shared management of debt. (Debt fund, a powerful bank insolvency law and a deposit guarantee for customers were all highlighted).
  • The financial transaction tax was an important concern in Austria. “It is a symbol that the financial markets contribute to that also has a control function:.. That will strengthen the real economy”.
  • He argued for reliable and sustainable energy policy which meant Renewables not Nuclear (Fukushima showing the latter as not sustainable).

He concluded his speech by saying: “If the grandchildren of the Austrian judge with grandchildren from southern Europe one day about our policy, I want them to say:” In a difficult time was solidarity and love stronger than selfishness and greed. ”

This is the second time this week I’ve read Werner Faymann make a positive case for Europe – in a one on one debate between the Austrian Chancellor (and leader of the Social Democrat SPÖ) and the leader of the Euro-sceptic (Far-Right) FPÖ, Faymann in my view was the clear winner in demolition the rhetoric of his opponent.

Werner Faymann and the SPÖ appear to believe that Europe is an issue that they can and need to address head on with voters. It’s also an issue on which they clearly believe that a strong pro-European position will be a vote winner in the General Election, due in September this year. (The Party are currently leading in the opinion polls).

Pro-European Parties (to varying degrees): ÖVP (conservatives); SPÖ (Social Democrats); Greens (Left of Centre); NEOS (liberal/centrist); LIF (liberal); Austrian Pirate Party. Combined support in current polls – 66%

Europe-sceptic Parties (to varying degrees): FPÖ (Far-Right); BZO (Right Conservative); Team Stronach (Right of Centre). Combined support in current polls – 34%

One of Austria’s newest parties NEOS would probably score amongst the most pro-European of the parties likely to be in the Austrian Parliament after this year’s General Election – http://neos.eu/ . However, the Austrian Pirates might dispute that title as they are currently discussing a Euro-federalist position – https://lqfb.piratenpartei.at/initiative/show/1768.html

Sources:

http://www.oe24.at/oesterreich/politik/EU-Parlament-Kanzler-Faymanns-wichtigste-EU-Rede/91400587

http://kurier.at/politik/eu/faymanns-europa-rede-wenn-wir-europa-staerken-staerken-wir-uns-selbst/2.587.648

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/content/20130111STO05285/html/Austrian-chancellor-no-guarantee-peace-without-solidarity-and-social-cohesion

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Conservative leader attacks Cameron over EU veto


Talking about last week’s European summit and Britain’s role in Europe, the head of the country’s pro-European conservatives is quoted, here, as saying “Britain must discuss a change of opinion towards Europe. I hope (for a change) because Europe without Britain is unthinkable for me.”

Alas, the leader in question is not a British Conservative showing some signs of sanity and defending the real interests of Britain. Instead the quote is from Michael Spindelegger the leader of Austria’s conservative ÖVP and the countries Vice Chancellor. Unlike the political landscape of the UK, in Austria it’s the conservatives who are often described as the most pro-European of the parties.

Austria currently has the lowest unemployment in Europe, growth has (up until recently) been healthier in comparison to much of Europe (including the UK), and (for the present) the country retains its AAA rating. The Euro has contributed to the country’s economic success and the collapse of the currency would potentially cause significant damage – as it would to the UK.

For many living Austria the Euro crisis has often seemed to be something happening elsewhere – a little irritating, far off, giving money away! However, the country’s debt figure is 73% of GDP compared to 60% only a few years ago and Italy’s troubles have brought matters closer to home as it is a very significant trading partner. The talk now is of debt brakes, taxation and cutbacks especially in the country’s extensive bureaucracy.

Thus Austria is learning that it isn’t quite the Alpine ‘island’ in the middle of Europe that frankly is the way you often feel living here. Getting to grip with the debt, ensuring unemployment remains low (tackling the issue of youth unemployment) and getting the Euro sorted (with or without some of the current club members), all whilst maintaining social cohesion would, I think, sums up mainstream opinion here in the Republic. The anti-euro, anti-Europe glee currently coming out of some sections of the UK body politic sounds particular strange from here given the importance of the European market to Britain, the lack of growth, rising unemployment, as well as the UK’s dependence on the outcomes of decisions from the Euro zone, the States and China.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not actually suggesting that Austria is a model that the UK should be following. In fact, despite Britain’s problems, Austria and other EU members could still gain from adopting some aspects of the Anglo-Saxon approach. It’s just that the little Englander stuff I’ve been reading in recent days reminds me of that rather interesting solution suggested in Tudor times for avoiding invasion from the Spanish Armada – send the English fleet north with ropes and grappling hooks, then tow the British Isles out into the Atlantic.

In all seriousness, sitting here on this ‘Alpine island’, the option of trying to get the Euro/EU back on track looks a much safer bet than putting up the keep out signs and rotting away in obscurity.

 

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Nuclear power – for and against in the EU


The Austrian Times is carrying two articles today that highlight the very different views on Nuclear Power and the way forward for energy policy as seen from the perspective of two EU member states.

http://www.austriantimes.at/news/General_News/2011-03-22/31637/Government_wants_unity_in_fighting_nuclear_power

http://www.austriantimes.at/news/General_News/2011-03-22/31634/Czech_ambassador_sees_%27anti-nuclear_hysteria%27

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