Friday

7th Oct 2022

Opinion

Austrian coalition tests Europe's human rights values

  • Migrants arriving at an Austrian train station (Photo: Josh Zakary)

Over the weekend, Austria's radical populist right Freedom Party (FPO) became part of the governing coalition, gaining control of the interior, foreign, and defence ministries.

The last time the party joined a coalition, Austria's government was shunned by its European partners and threatened with EU sanctions. This time the reaction has been muted, perhaps because radical right populism in European politics is increasingly accepted as the norm.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

What will the FPO's impact on law and policy be?

It is already clear that the coalition's five-year government program will likely pose serious challenges for the human rights values at Europe's heart.

Sebastian Kurz, Austria's new Chancellor and leader of the centre right Austrian People's Party (OVP), the senior partner in the coalition, travelled to Brussels yesterday to meet with the EU leadership.

The choice of destination for his first trip is supposed to symbolise the new Austrian government's commitment to the EU.

But the EU needs clear leadership that respects rights in asylum, migration, integration, and security policy. It is far from clear whether Austria, which will assume the rotating presidency of the European Council in mid-2018, will contribute in that way.

On migration, Austria's new government proposes that, instead of being admitted to Europe, migrants and refugees rescued at sea should be sent to processing centers outside Europe.

In other words, they will not be brought first to a place of safety, as the law of the sea requires.

Kurz has previously pushed an agenda to replicate Australia's odious refugee-processing model – by outsourcing responsibility for asylum seekers to Libya. Clearly, Austria's mainstream OVP is part of the problem; this isn't just about the FPO's influence.

Political Islam

Under what the new government terms, "the fight against political Islam," it proposes measures to close kindergartens, schools, and cultural institutions associated with types of Islam the government considers alien to Austrian values.

It also proposes "sanctions" against immigrants who fail to integrate with Austrian culture.

This anti-immigrant sentiment is closer to the positions taken by the Visegrad Group – a bloc made up of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – than the founding values of the European Union.

Europe's leaders and institutions should be vigilant about the potential threat to the Union posed by new Austrian government policies.

Europe should stand up for rights of minorities and migrants, including through legal enforcement action if necessary. After all, it's the values of equality, dignity, and respect that are the glue holding the Union together.

Kartik Raj is Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU silent on Austria's 'pro-Europe' far-right in cabinet

Thousands of anti-fascist demonstrators protested against the new government in Vienna on Monday, as the EU remained muted on the new far-right party in an EU government, which – unlike similar hard-right parties – wants to portray itself as pro-European.

Sebastian Kurz - Austria's young master of reinvention?

Has the long decline of Austria's mainstream parties finally come to an end? The centre-right People's Party seems to have successfully reinvented itself...or has it simply stolen the far-right Freedom Party's clothes?

The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans

The fossil-fuel industry is using the carbon removal agenda to get yet more support for failed carbon capture, which is a key component of the pie-in-the-sky carbon removal technologies being promoted by the EU Commission.

Column

The Iranian regime's expiration date

This 'headscarf revolution' is about women's rights and human rights in general, plus police brutality. Moreover, it is a leaderless revolution that is not driven by a leader or a group, but erupted spontaneously.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden: Nord Stream probe points to 'gross sabotage'
  2. Orbán rails against Russia sanctions at Prague summit
  3. MEPs urge inquiry into Mahsa Amini killing and Iran sanctions
  4. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  5. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  6. Danish general election called for 1 November
  7. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  8. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. What actually happened at the 'most complicated election in the world'?
  2. Europe lays aside quarrels to isolate Putin
  3. Spyware-hacked MEPs still seeking answers
  4. EU leaders discuss gas price cap — amid rationing fear
  5. Germany braces for criticism of national €200bn energy fund
  6. The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans
  7. Four weeks to COP27 — key issues and challenges
  8. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us