Wednesday

27th Oct 2021

Austria's presidential rivals clash over EU and migration

  • FPOe's Hofer could become the EU's first postwar far-right head of state (Photo: Hofer's campaign)

Austria's presidential candidates have clashed in a TV debate over US president-elect Donald Trump, immigration and the future of the EU before voters head to the polls on Sunday (4 December).

Alexander Van der Bellen, backed by the Greens, and far-right contender Norbert Hofer for the Freedom Party (FPOe) echoed the faultlines where mainstream politics and populism have clashed in Western democracies recently.

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

Van der Bellen accused Hofer of creating insecurity by threatening to pull Austria out of the EU. "The FPOe has always been an EU exit party," he said.

Hofer had earlier pledged to call for a referendum on EU membership if Turkey joined the union or if Brussels tried to centralise power.

"The most important thing is the solidarity between member states, otherwise we won't be able to assert ourselves in the face of Russia or the United States," 72-year-old Van der Bellen said during the live debate broadcast on private channel ATV.

Hofer, 45, dismissed such claims, saying: "There won't be an Oexit."

Hofer attacked Van der Bellen for criticising the US election victory of Donald Trump.

Van der Bellen said many in Europe felt "anxious" about the US president-elect who has been accused of sexism and racism.

Van der Bellen also warned that the election of Donald Trump in the US showed there was justified anger, which made voters feel abandoned and forgotten.

Hofer retorted by saying that in Austria a lot of people feel abandoned.

On immigration, Van der Bellen appealed for fast integration of recognised asylum seekers in Austria, kickstarting German courses and helping to find jobs.

Hofer blamed German chancellor Angela Merkel for the EU's failed migration policy. He also doubted Turkey will hold itself to the migration deal with the EU for much longer.

Historic vote

The two candidates have already made history, since it would be the first time Austria's president does not come from the Social Democratic and Austrian People’s Party, which have dominated the political scene since World War II.

Hofer could also become Europe's first postwar far-right head of state after 4 December.

Austrian voters need to head to the ballot boxes again after Hofer challenged the result of the May election which he narrowly lost to Van der Bellen.

Hofer said however he would not contest the outcome this time.

Austrian candidates both seek Trump effect

Donald Trump's victory is enlivening Austria's presidential campaign - one side seizing on it as a sign that the masses are rising up, the other depicting it as a stark warning of the dangers of demagoguery.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

News in Brief

  1. US to add last three EU states to visa-waiver list
  2. German ministry gives thumbs up to Russian pipeline
  3. EU regulator foresees endless battles with Facebook
  4. UK fears three migrants drowned in Channel
  5. Israel joins EU science scheme, despite Palestine clause
  6. Upcoming flu season 'could be severe', EU agency warns
  7. Ukraine wins Dutch case on Crimea gold
  8. Most Poles want Warsaw to back down in EU dispute

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Environment ministers continue dogfight on energy price hike
  2. Most lawmakers unhappy with lead MEP's asylum bill
  3. More transparency on EU media owners planned for 2022
  4. Europe's deadly border policies
  5. 'Brussels So White' needs action, not magical thinking
  6. How to break the political deadlock on migration
  7. Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action
  8. Belarus exiles in EU fear regime-linked murderers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us