Monday

19th Nov 2018

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure

EU ministers' discussion on how to address rule of law issues in Poland and Hungary gets stuck on procedural issues, while Viktor Orban's government claims it is a target of the Brussels elite because of its anti-migration stance.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland extradites Polish man despite rule of law concerns
  2. Germany and France agree eurozone budget framework
  3. Austrian foreign minister: EU's Israel policy 'too strict'
  4. Soros and Kurz discuss Central European University move
  5. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  6. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  7. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  8. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  2. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  3. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  4. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine
  5. EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation
  6. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  7. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  8. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us