‘Boycott new right-wing Austrian government’

This AFP video says about itself:

Protests in Vienna against new coalition government

18 December 2017

More than 2,000 demonstrators take to the streets in Vienna ahead of the inauguration of Austria’s new coalition government of the conservatives and the far right.

From Politico:

Open letter urges boycott of far right in Austrian Cabinet

A group including former French and Spanish foreign ministers calls for action against ‘the fatal ideology of hatred.’

By Judith Mischke

12/29/17, 12:05 PM CET

Updated 12/30/17, 3:54 AM CET

A group including former European foreign ministers is calling for a boycott of Austria’s new, far-right Cabinet members, referring to them as the “heirs of Nazism” and criticizing “silence and apathy” on the issue.

In an open letter published in French newspaper Le Monde on Thursday, former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell and others urged European leaders to take action.

“Let’s not turn our eyes away: The heirs of Nazism have come into power in the new Austrian government,” the letter states. “We are all concerned as we are all being threatened by the fatal ideology of hatred.”

The letter comes in response to newly sworn-in Chancellor Sebastian Kurz forming a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) after October’s election, making Austria the only Western European nation with a government that includes an anti-immigrant, populist force. The FPÖ nominated six Cabinet members, including the leaders of the defense and interior ministries.

The letter’s authors called on national leaders to refuse to attend meetings with or receive FPÖ ministers, and also urged politicians to “boycott” Austria’s control of the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union next year between July and December.

Other signatories on the letter include Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of East Timor, José Ramos-Horta, as well as Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, who are known for their investigation into and prosecution of Nazi crimes.

Another signatory is Benjamin Abtan, president of the European Antiracist Movement (EGAM).

An assault on the people of Austria. The right-wing conservative coalition is planning attacks on workers, the unemployed, tenants and asylum-seekers, while entrepreneurs have reason to celebrate. SIMON LIODL reports.

Austrian Jews To Boycott Holocaust Ceremony If Far-Right Ministers Attend: here.


Austria’s new xenophobic government

This video says about itself:

The European Risk of Austria’s Anti-Immigrant Policies

19 December 2017

Austria is setting a bad example in Europe with its new anti-immigrant policies, which soon could spread throughout the continent.

Racists in Austrian government, Israeli and Jewish reactions

This video says about itself:

18 December 2017

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Vienna on Monday to decry the recently formed Austrian government coalition with the far-right Freedom party.

Protesters marched through the streets whilst holding banners and chanting. Anti-riot police were present and on high alert, as smoke grenades were set off on the streets.

From daily Haaretz in Israel:

Israel to Boycott Austria’s New Far-right Cabinet Ministers

The move is being defined as temporary until an official policy is crafted. Political sources: Netanyahu’s office inclined to accept Freedom Party’s statements that it has broken from its anti-Semitic roots

Noa Landau and Ofer Aderet Dec 18, 2017 8:09 PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, said Monday that Israel will boycott Austria’s far-right ministers, instructing Israeli ministers to work only with lower-ranking officials.

Seeking to cool ties with the Austrian government were officials at the Foreign Ministry, while officials at the Prime Minister’s Office were inclined to accept statements by the far-right Freedom Party that it has broken with its anti-Semitic roots, political sources said.

The new Austrian government took office Monday following two months of negotiations between Sebastian Kurz, the new chancellor and head of the center-right People’s Party, and Heinz-Christian Strache, whose Freedom Party came in third in the October election after the People’s Party and Social Democrats.

When Strache’s party joined a coalition government in 2000, Israel recalled its ambassador and downgraded relations. But this time the response had been slow.

A statement released Monday at the close of discussions between the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office said that “Israel will conduct working relations with civil servants in the ministries now led by Freedom Party ministers …. Israel seeks to stress its responsibility to fight anti-Semitism and to commemorate the memory of the Holocaust.”

In an interview with Austria’s ORF television on Monday evening, Strache was asked what he thought about Israel’s decision to reexamine its position on its relations with the Austrian government in light of Strache‘s Freedom Party’s presence in the new government. He replied that “the situation today is different than when Israel took steps in 2000, recalling its ambassador and halting contacts between the governments.”

Strache is the successor of the Freedom Party’s longtime leader Jörg Haider, who died in a car accident in 2008. The party’s critics say it has still not disassociated itself from its Nazi and anti-Semitic roots. Some [of] its supporters greet its leaders with a Nazi salute,

This video is from an Austrian TV report. Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the extreme right FPÖ, is welcomed to a Salzburg election meeting by supporters shouting: “Heil Hitler”!

and Strache once posted an anti-Semitic political cartoon on Facebook and adorned a campaign poster with a slogan with Nazi overtones.

But in recent years, Strache has tried to portray himself as a friend of Israel. He has promised to move Austria’s embassy to Jerusalem and has supported Israel’s construction of settlements in the West Bank.

Because his hatred of Muslims is even stronger than his hatred of Jews. The United States neonazi pro-Trump site The Daily Stormer advocates gassing all Jews. Yet, they applaud Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Because they think it will lead to more Arabs killing Israeli Jews, and to the Israeli army killing more Palestinians and other Arabs. And whether dead people are Jewish or Arab, killing them is ‘good’ according to neonazi twisted logic.

He has visited Israel at least three times in recent years … But on his most recent visit last year, former President Shimon Peres refused to meet with him, on the recommendation of the Foreign Ministry.

Analysis: Netanyahu’s Speedy Absolution for Austria’s neo-Nazis. In the past, for a state to be forgiven for its anti-Jewish past, it would have to publicly repudiate its sins, but not so with Israel’s stance on the new Austrian government: here.

Netanyahu in practice helped nazi Shoah deniers by exculpating Hitler of guilt for the Holocaust.

From the Jerusalem Post in Israel, 18 December 2017:

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress – which was among Jewish groups that had called on Kurz not to include the FPÖ in his government – was vocal in his concern over the new coalition. …

In a statement released Sunday, he congratulated Kurz as “a capable man who has shown very positive attitudes toward Israel and the Jewish people.” He said, however, that it was “severely disquieting that, despite the many real concerns known and expressed about the FPÖ, it will now retain a position of serious influence, giving the Austrian government a real push even further to the Right.” …

“The FPÖ is a far-right party whose members have in the past expressed xenophobic and antisemitic sentiments. Yet it has now been charged with overseeing the interior, defense, and foreign ministries, three of the most important and powerful fields of government,” Lauder continued. “We have heard promises since the election that FPÖ has softened its policies, but this will remain rhetoric until actual proof of this is shown.”

The European Jewish Congress echoed this sentiment. “The FPÖ has a long history of antisemitism and xenophobia and we are concerned about the fact that they will control government ministries in the new Austrian Government,” Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the EJC, said Monday. …

The Freedom Party can not use the Jewish community as a fig leaf and must show tolerance and acceptance towards all communities and minorities”, Kantor added.

In an email sent after the elections, Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Communities of Austria, wrote that the Jewish community, as well as the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress, called on Kurz not to include the FPÖ in the next government because “many representatives of the FPÖ,” including Strache, have “used antisemitic codes, made extreme right-wing statements and have promoted hatred and racism,” including during the recent electoral campaign.

The letter also stated that several of the party’s candidates have in the past “called for the elimination of legislation against Holocaust denial.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews also expressed “deep concern” on Monday over the coalition agreement.

The board’s senior vice president Richard Verber said: “The far Right brought unprecedented misery on Austria and other European countries in the past. It is up to all European countries, including the new government of Austria, to make sure it does not do so again in the future.”

“We fully support the position adopted by the Austrian Jewish community, European Jewish Congress and World Jewish Congress of non-engagement with the far Right in Europe,” he added. “While some parties claim to have disavowed their antisemitic and racist roots, actions speak much louder than words. We urge the European Union and other international partners to carefully monitor the situation in the coming weeks and months and respond as appropriate.”

The new Austrian government includes five ministers and a vice-chancellor affiliated with the FPÖ. To date, Israel has maintained a non-engagement policy with the FPÖ due to its Nazi past and the antisemitic and racist leanings of some members.

From AFP news agency:

Last month a group commemorating Nazi camp victims published a list of what it said were at least 60 anti-Semitic and racist incidents involving FPÖ figures since 2013.

“If they really changed their ideology, it is a question they can only answer themselves,” said analyst Alexandra Siegl. “I would say they changed their tactics and their strategies mainly.”

Extreme right in Austrian government, British comment

 Newly sworn-in Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, left, and new vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, December 18, 2017


Fascists in Vienna

TWELVE months ago Europe’s left sighed with relief after Alexander Van der Bellen, a Green, saw off the far-right Freedom Party’s (FPO’s) Norbert Hofer to become president of Austria.

The respite has been short-lived, with Mr Van der Bellen approving at the weekend a coalition deal that brings the fascists into government in Vienna after all.

A media that has been at pains to downplay the resurgence of far-right politics across Europe likes to avoid the word fascist. It tends to term the FPO “right-wing populist” …

Like most far-right groups, the FPO affects a populist anti-Establishment stance, one belied by its pro-privatisation and tax cuts economic policies and its willingness to go into coalition with the conservative People’s Party.

But these are hardly adequate terms for a party founded by an ex-nazi who was an officer in the SS during the second world war.

Its hostility to immigrants is extreme, and it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out that when its leader Heinz-Christian Strache — now vice-chancellor of the Austrian government — called earlier this year for “zero and minus immigration,” he meant deportations and the expulsion of people of foreign origin.

The FPO has said — again this year — that “fascistic Islam” must be banned, claims “Islamification” is a terminal threat to the Austrian way of life and wants to outlaw “Muslim symbols.”

In the deal it has struck with the People’s Party, it takes control of Austria’s defence, interior and foreign ministries.

Surely Europe should be up in arms about this power-grab by a gang of xenophobic racists?

Not a bit of it. The march of the radical right across Europe is not confined to Austria.

Le Pen, who saluted the FPO’s new status as “excellent news for Europe” on Saturday, came second in the French elections, after all — and the man hailed as the saviour of liberal Europe for beating both her and the left seeks to rule by decree rather than through parliament and has legislated for a permanent state of emergency granting extraordinary powers to the police.

The FPO’s momentum is mirrored by that of the AfD in Germany, the Italian far-right are increasingly breaking into asylum centres and even attacking newspaper offices, xenophobic governments in Warsaw and Budapest are stamping on the opposition and Ukraine has become a playground for openly neonazi paramilitary groups.

Brussels is happy to wink at the rising tide of filth — European Council president Donald Tusk is already pushing for even harsher treatment of refugees fleeing war and genocide in the Middle East — so long as the fascists are on board with Permanent Structured Co-operation (Pesco), the “European Defence Union” hailed by Jean-Claude Juncker as a stepping stone to the joint EU military to “fight the resource wars of the 21st century” … .

Austria’s enthusiastic support for Pesco will end the country’s official neutrality — as it will for Ireland — further embedding both countries into the aggressive Washington-led Nato alliance.

It is no coincidence that Britain, where Labour’s appeal has been revolutionised by Jeremy Corbyn, has the weakest far right in Europe, or that a recent Financial Times poll of attitudes in Austria, France, Italy, Germany and the UK found the lowest (while still worryingly high) levels of Islamophobia here.

There is no defence from the far right in Establishment institutions. This is a battle for the left.

Thousands protest as fascists sworn into government in Vienna: here.

The entry Monday of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) into the Austrian government marks a political turning point for all of Europe. In a country traditionally seen in the post-World War II period as part of Western Europe, where anti-fascism became a pillar of the official state ideology following the crimes of Hitler’s Third Reich, politicians with close ties to the neo-Nazi scene and ultra-right circles are wielding power. The police, military and intelligence services are all controlled by FPÖ ministers: here.

Austrian extreme right in government?

This 2015 German language video from Austria accuses the far right FPÖ party of being a neonazi party.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

Far-right poised to enter government following Austrian election

16 October 2017

Sunday’s election in Austria has produced a sharp shift to the right. It is expected that a right-wing government of a kind not seen since the fall of Hitler and the restoration of Austrian independence will be installed.

The consensus view is that the election campaign was the filthiest in the country’s history. Incapable of addressing the devastating social consequences of the global capitalist crisis, the major parties sought to outdo one another with attacks on refugees and mutual mud-slinging. One commentator spoke of a “hysterical Austria-First atmosphere” dominating official politics.

As of this writing, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), with 31.4 percent of the vote, has emerged from the balloting with a clear lead. It gained 7.4 percent over its result in the last national election, in 2013. The final result will not been known until Monday, when the postal vote is counted.

Thirty-one-year-old Sebastian Kurz, who is currently foreign minister in the grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPÖ), is likely to become the new prime minister. Kurz assumed the leadership of the ÖVP in May in what amounted to an internal party coup. He centered his campaign around his personality. Its sole political focus was hostility to immigrants, refugees and Muslims. Kurz attempted to outflank the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) from the right.

Kurz boasted that he secured the closure of the Balkan route used by refugees fleeing the catastrophic conditions in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa resulting from the US-led and NATO-backed wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. He touted his close ties to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn and promised a range of discriminatory measures against refugees. He vowed to restrict the number of immigrants, reduce social benefits for asylum seekers and close Islamic kindergartens. He also pledged to massively strengthen the police and security apparatus.

In second place is the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). It has increased its vote by 6.9 percent to 27.4 percent and overtaken the Social Democrats (26.7 percent), who received the same vote as four years ago. Since neither the Conservatives nor the Social Democrats want to continue the grand coalition, which has governed the country for ten years, it is likely that the right-wing extremists will be part of the next government.

The FPÖ entered the government in Vienna once before, from 2000 to 2007, when the party was led by Jörg Haider. At the time, its acceptance into government triggered Europe-wide protests and the European Union imposed sanctions. Since then, the party has moved significantly further to the right.

Forty-eight-year-old Heinz-Christian Strache, who broke with Haider in 2005 and took over as party leader, was, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, part of the militant neo-Nazi scene when he began his career in the FPÖ.

As a 17-year-old, Strache joined the German nationalist student fraternity Vandalia in Vienna. He maintained close contact with well known right-wing extremist Norbert Burger and was the partner of his daughter for seven years. He had ties to the neo-Nazi Viking Youth, which was banned in Germany in 1994, and participated in paramilitary exercises with well known neo-Nazis. Since photos exist of him in uniform, Strache later tried to dismiss his paramilitary activities as harmless paintball play-acting.

Strache joined the FPÖ in 1989, but the FPÖ’s youth organization, Youth Circle of Freedom (RFJ), turned him away. “At that time, Strache was too right-wing for us and blustered too much,” future Defence Minister Herbert Scheibner said of the decision.

A government alliance between Kurz and Strache—the most likely outcome of the election—would be roughly equivalent to a coalition between the Christian Social Union’s Markus Söder and the Alternative for Germany’s Björn Höcke in Germany; or between Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine le Pen in France. In a country that was annexed by Hitler in 1938, all inhibitions about the crimes of the past are being dropped.

This development can be understood only in the context of the bankruptcy of the organisations that once described themselves as “left” or representative of the working class.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Austrian Social Democracy was among the most powerful sections of the Second International. Even after the First World War, which the Austrian Social Democracy supported, the party dominated “red Vienna,” where one in four residents was a member. In the 1970s, by which time the party had declared its unconditional defence of the bourgeois order but still carried through limited social reforms, SPÖ leader Bruno Kreisky was one of the most well known figures in international Social Democracy.

Now the SPÖ has paved the way for the rise of the right-wing extremists by abandoning even the pretense of defending workers’ rights. Instead, it has adopted xenophobic slogans, pledging prior to the election its readiness to form a coalition with the FPÖ.

Like the other parties, the Social Democrats called in the election campaign for the strengthening of borders against refugees. They supported the closure of the Balkan route by the region’s right-wing governments and pushed for a tougher stance against refugees in the Mediterranean, claiming that they were engaged in “economic migration.”

In June, Chancellor and SPÖ leader Christian Kern, a former rail industry executive, abandoned the more than 30-year-old “Vranitzky doctrine,” according to which the Social Democrats would not cooperate with the FPÖ. Leading SPÖ officials openly called for an alliance with the right-wing extremists. This was particularly the case among representatives of the influential trade union wing, such as construction union chief Josef Muchitsch and the leader of the metalworkers union, Rainer Wimmer. At the state level, the SPÖ already formed a coalition with the FPÖ in Burgenland in 2015. Both parties have hailed their close cooperation.

In the election, the SPÖ resorted to a filthy campaign that blew up in its face after it was exposed. In August, Tal Silberstein, a highly-paid SPÖ campaign consultant, was arrested in Israel on corruption charges and it was revealed that he operated anonymous Facebook pages that spread lies about ÖVP candidate Kurz, painting him as an anti-Semite.

There is no possibility of forming a majority in the new parliament by aligning one of the three major parties with one or more of the smaller parties, because the votes recorded by the latter were too low.

The neo-liberal Neos, a protest party made up of well-off middle-class elements, which adapted itself to the anti-refugee campaign, will reenter parliament with 5.0 percent of the vote, the same result as in the last election.

The Greens, whose former chairman Alexander Van der Bellen was elected Austrian president in December of 2016, lost 9.1 percent. With a total of 3.3 percent, they have fallen short of the 4 percent needed to enter parliament. The list of Peter Pilz, a former member of the Pabloite Revolutionary Marxist Group, who split from the Greens because their policies on refugees and Turkey were sufficiently right-wing, received 4.1 percent.

The Team Stronach, set up by a right-wing businessman, which received 5.7 percent in the last election, did not stand in Sunday’s election.

The rightward shift in Austria is symptomatic of Europe as a whole. In the Alpine republic, with its close to 9 million residents, the full extent of the rot of bourgeois politics is on display. In the face of deepening international and social tensions, all of the parties defending capitalism are turning to policies of nationalism, xenophobia, militarism and the strengthening of the repressive state apparatus.

The dissatisfaction and social needs of the masses find no expression in the traditional ruling parties, allowing them to be exploited by far-right demagogues. This is true not only in Austria, where the FPÖ is winning support in former SPÖ strongholds, but also in France, where the National Front won votes in run-down industrial areas, and in Germany, where the AfD’s strongholds are in impoverished parts of eastern Germany.

In latest victory for the far right, neo-fascists gain in Austrian election: here.

Bearded vulture on Texel island

This 26 May 2017 video from Dutch nature reserve Solleveld shows the young male bearded vulture Lucky from the High Tauern mountains in Austria, which had flown to the Netherlands.

According to Dutch Vroege Vogels TV, in the last week of May 2017 Lucky flew over the Netherlands, including spending time on Texel island.

Christopher Sands explains why vultures are so misunderstood. This article is the editorial of the June edition of the BirdLife Europe & Central Asia newsletter. Read it here in full.