Austria and Europe: Rights and Wrongs

Human rights and democracy are at the heart of the European integration project. The domestic affairs of member states are also increasingly influenced by neighbours. So should the European family be telling Vienna that they don’t much like Jörg Haider’s party joining government?

The World Today
4 minute READ

Roger Morgan

As the inclusion of Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party in Austria’s new government loomed, the other fourteen member-governments of the European Union (EU) announced that, if it came about, they would react by drastically downgrading political relations with Vienna.

While understandable, this step has proved highly controversial, and raises some fundamental questions about the right of the Union – or its member-states, which are not quite the same thing – to ‘intervene’ in another member’s internal affairs.

Formally, the basis for this Union-wide gesture of disapproval is that it is committed by the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty to upholding ‘the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law’. A member-state judged guilty of a ‘serious and persistent breach’ of these principles may face various penalties, including the loss of voting-rights.

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