February 9, 2000
It was quicker than I expected, but the European Union is starting to become the dictatorship that people like me feared and warned about. The issue is Austria, and the second largest (and most popular) party, the Freedom Party (PFÖ) and its Blair-like leader Jörg Haider. The European Union is attempting to suspend the government of Austria because this party is now part of the governing coalition. This is nothing more than the Milosovic style suspension of the democratic process, and a warning to all those who think that it is possible to work within the European Union for a democratic and open Europe. The fact is that in the eyes of Washington and Brussels a democratically elected party is not now allowed into government, while the irresponsible and corrupt Social Democrats are guaranteed permanent power. The message to all that believe in anything other than this New World Order is, "watch out Ė youíre next."
Before going into the ins and outs of Austrian politics, I will have to explain to those not conversant with the European Union, and some who think they are, know how this process is allowed to come about. Under Article 7 of the Amsterdam Treaty, the Council of Ministers is entitled, on a majority vote, to suspend voting rights of a member state. This does not mean that the European Unionís writ no longer runs in that state, on the contrary it still runs with the same oppressive force, micromanaging the laws and culture of that particular state. The relevant parts of this article are:
In laymanís terms this means that the European Union can, if five of its members or the head of the EU civil service asks for it, suspend a member, as long as no other member objects. The accused country cannot itself vote, only "submit its observations." The fact is that the country is now under occupation in that its laws are being made for it without even its input. Can Austria resign from this one-sided bargain? Forget about it. Under the terms of the European Union no country is allowed to secede unless all the other countries (yes, that includes Luxembourg and Greece) vote to allow it to do so. Forget Kosovo, forget Bosnia, this new anti-democratic order now has its largest prize so far. Austriaís new Anschluss will not even have a rigged referendum to legitimise it.
What is this clause 6 (1) which they have to maintain? One would think that an article which brought down such a fearsome reaction would be fairly extreme. Well, not quite:
"Without prejudice to the other provisions of this Treaty and within the limits of the powers conferred by it upon the Community, the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation."
Now, Iím sorry, but there is not a government in the world that is not in "serious and persistent breach" of these rules. Positive discrimination? Immigration control? No blind pilots in the air force? Every government by its very nature discriminates, and to get rid of discrimination one would have to free oneself completely from government. I am gloomy enough about human nature to believe that government will always be necessary. However there is one government that is guaranteed not to be in "serious and persistent breach" of these rules, and that is a government that has not yet taken power. Although the EU has only brought in pathetic sanctions so far, they could resort to a new reconstruction. Remember that when the EU tries to call in its monstrous Article 7.
Let us be clear on one thing, Haider may be Austrian and have a similar sounding name, but he is not a reincarnation of Hitler. For what it is worth Haider has condemned the Nazi period as the worst in the twentieth century, which is not the sort of thing one would hear from a convinced neo-Nazi. The Freedom Party was not set up as a gathering ground for ex-Nazis in the aftermath of World War II, as so many reporters seem to believe. The PFÖ was always a free market Liberal party (Liberal on continental Europe retains its Latin root meaning). The most prominent Austrian ex-Nazi was Kurt Waldheim, a scion of the Christian Democratic Peopleís Party; also a former secretary general of the United Nations. The nest of Nazi sympathisers is more likely to be the UN rather than the Freedom Party. If one wants nothing to do with ex-Nazis, isnít that an argument for leaving the UN?
His praise of Hitlerís "orderly employment policies" was wrong, and in the heat of debate, but not evil. If you read almost any history book then the praise for Hitlerís Keynesian economic policies is there. The belief that more government spending, regulation and borrowing will kick-start the economy is stupid, but it is a stupidity that is repeated by both Samuelson and Galbraith Ė and these guys wrote high school text books! Surely if you want to de-nazify you should start there. Haider even claims that heís not a Keynesian, that was last yearís fashion. One might as well condemn Eisenhower as an anti-Semitic Nazi because his construction of interstate highways followed Hitlerís construction of the autobahn. No one says that a belief in Keynesian demand management is akin to a belief in genocide (although the left often claim Ė with their customary sense of proportion Ė that monetarism is). No one that is except the Haider haters.
His peroration of the Waffen SS veterans as "decent people" is not a commendation of what the SS did. Personally I wonder what made so many otherwise decent people cooperate with the Nazis in their genocidal policies. If the answer was that the collaborators were merely evil then the answer would be simple, watch out for evil people and be smugly aware that you yourself are not evil. If the answer is that these people were "decent" but fallible, like I am and like you are, then the question leads to less complacency. To recognise that many of the people who cooperated were not evil, disturbed or abnormal but ordinary and "decent"; this may be sobering but it is not a commendation of what they did. The previous occupation authorities obviously thought that these individuals were decent they released them from prisoner of war camps and the de-Nazification programmes. To say that one is decent is not to say one is innocent. The idea that ordinary people are capable of great evil is an old one, it is called Original Sin. I donít think that Haider thinks on that sort of level but I donít think that he is a Nazi either and it is dangerous to justify the occupation of a country on an out of context mistranslated remark.
I am no fan of the Freedom Party nor its leader, Jörg Haider. This is not because of his far right views; they do not exist, the man has no views except his own advancement. The fact is that Herr Haider is on the whole an unprincipled populist who flip-flops on just about any important issue. Haider was an early and consistent advocate of the European Union. He then campaigned vigorously against it in the referendum to join. When Austria became a member of the EU he claimed that Austria had no realistic future outside it. There is no compass to this man, and like Blair or Mussolini this lack of a moral compass may make for barbarous decisions. But if you want to take out unprincipled populists with a Napoleon complex, we have one right here in London.
The EU needs to ask itself why the Freedom Party is so popular. Austria has been run since the war by a permanent two party coalition. Now I know what my American readers will think here, but this is worse than the Republicrats, these guys donít even pretend to oppose one another. There is a two party coalition of Social Democrats and the Peopleís Party. Thatís it. There is no need for elections when the government has been decided before the vote. Any election has the relevance of voting for the Moscow Central district in the Peopleís Duma election of 1980. Senior jobs in the government and most large private companies are on the basis of party quota. Not only are the parties primarily glorified personnel agencies, but the voters donít have a choice of agencies. This has the predictable effect on the size of the state (designed to broaden the parties bases) and the general competence of much of Austrian government. Austria has become a two party-one party state. Until the Social Democrats became so arrogant that even the corrupt Peopleís Party went to the PFÖ in search of a coalition partner, this was the way it was going to stay. But the fresh wind of the Freedom Party has caught the imagination of the Austrians, and political competition was going to enter Austria, until the Federasts thought otherwise.
The permanent role of the left in the Government of Austria is an important motive in the present moves to isolate Haider. The Party of European Socialists (PES) the organisation that started this phony scare is the European coordinating group of Socialist and Social Democratic parties in the EU. In a press release they urged the Christian Democrats to keep the corrupt Socialists in power. When the Christian Democrats worked in the national rather than the Socialistsí interests, the PES contacted its satellite parties around the European Union, including the British Labour party, the French Socialists and the Portuguese Social Democrats (who have coordinated the international aggression through their Presidency of the EU.) They urged the parties to put pressure on the left-of-center governments, which the parties controlled anyway. Many Americans may be wondering why their government cares about this turf war between the Viennese ward healers, but perhaps you should ask your congressman. Ominously in a new press release, the PES are calling for measures to be taken against Austria under the dictatorial Clause 7, the soon to be infamous Anschluss Clause.
If we are getting into a lather about the Austrianís role in World War II, perhaps we should look at another collaborating nation Ė France. To be more precise we should look at a former Vichy minister, prewar member of the far right Croix de Feu and constant post-war opponent of De Gaulle, François Mitterrand. Two things should be clear, this Nazi collaborator was the French President when Jacques Chirac, the current President, was Prime Minister; and the Far Right veteran was the architect of the PES. A far more worrying precedent will also be set in the unlikely event of the French anti-European leader, Charles Pasqua, becoming President. Let us remember that the French were as untrustworthy when we were in the Cold War as they were against the Nazis. The same can be said of the Socialists' attitudes towards the "National Socialists" as well as the International Socialists in Moscow. When hearing Jacque Chirac pontificating or the PES calling for even less democracy in Austria, one must remember the shameful record of French cattle trucks.
Why is the European community showing its hand at such an early time? The timing is not at all appropriate. For the moment the EU has no force at its disposal. Austria may for a short while become a diplomatic pariah, but outside Europe this situation will not last. Trade sanctions will hurt, but will be nowhere near fatal since Austria has Switzerland as a neighbour, Switzerland being free territory. Austria in short can defy the EU, if it wanted to, which is why many of the bureaucrats are opposing this mad move. The reason for the EUís gamble is that the Freedom Party has dared to challenge the shibboleth of the EU, the sanctity of future expansion. As part of the populist rag bag of measures put forward by Herr Haider was a pledge to oppose future expansion of the EU, so that East European immigrants do not come into Austria. As the EU knows that this will kill the momentum of growth, the EU has to oppose it. The short tenure British foreign secretary and garden gnome double, Robin Cook, has said as much. Like the Soviet Union before it the EU is not a stable entity; with no growth or no common enemy it will fall over. Haider has, accidentally, stumbled on the EUís point of no return. Now he must pay the price.
What happens in Vienna today may well happen in London tomorrow. There is one other serious party that pledges opposition to future expansion of the European Union, the British Conservative Party. It is true that this is not a principled opposition, but merely a willingness to play hard ball with the EU unless Britain gets its own Ďflexibility clauseí which will, supposedly, give it carte blanche to run its own affairs (I have my own views on this). The EU will not allow a flexibility clause. As we have seen with Austria, it will not contemplate expansion being blocked. So what happens if Britain insists on holding its ground, as it probably would under the present Conservative leader, William Hague? This is usually discounted on the idea that the Tories could never win an election in the next couple of years. However under the highly intelligent, if untelligenic, Hague, the Tories have already surprised the country at the ballot box. In the last national election, the Euro elections in June 1999, the Labour Party had its worst result for fifteen years. The other hopeful sign for the Conservatives is that the Labour Party is now behaving as if it has the next election in the bag, that confidence breeds arrogance and corruption, which can itself bring a startlingly swift fall. Hubris is the Labour Partyís most prominent characteristic.
If the European Union were to try to use the same bullying that it has with Austria, it could be in for a shock. The British are larger, more self confident and more prepared to look out of Europe. Another factor is that the Conservatives are self evidently (at least to those who do not belong to the British far left) not racist. Unlike Haider, Hague has made no stupid remarks, and Hague also has the advantage that he speaks in English and so his remarks are harder to misrepresent than Haiderís. You also have to remember that Hague has more depth and intelligence, if less charisma, than Haider. If Haider is a Blair; shallow, vain but harmless; then Hague (like Buchanan) is a potential De Gaulle, intelligent but cussed as hell. When even Austria evinces international sympathy, England is going to attract a groundswell. Will America cooperate in an occupation of Britain, like it has so shamefully done in the case of Austria? Internationalism only goes so far.
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