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To Europe's Chagrin, Austrian Freedom Party Enters Government

After several weeks of political wrangling and in the teeth of widespread international opposition, Austrian President Thomas Klestil has approved a new government that includes the conservative People's Party and the rightist Freedom Party. The inclusion of the Freedom Party horrifies a large number of observers in Austria and abroad, partly because of positive comments regarding Nazi employment policies and members of the Waffen SS made in the past by the Freedom Party's leader, Joerg Haider. Haider has consistently distanced himself from these remarks over the past few years, and before approving the coalition government, President Klestil had Haider and the leader of the People's Party, Wolfgang Schuessel, sign a statement renouncing Austria's Nazi past and promising to respect European values in their new government. However, and probably even more to the point as far as the European Community is concerned, the Freedom Party is a strong opponent of EU expansion into the east and rose to power on a staunch anti-immigrant platform. While Haider himself will not hold a Cabinet post, his party will take the ministries of finance, social affairs, defense, infrastructure, and justice, as well as the Deputy Chancellor post. Almost immediately after Austria's swearing in of the new government, the European Union has moved to impose unprecedented harsh sanctions. Finland, France, Germany, Britain, and Portugal, which currently holds the EU presidency, have already confirmed that they will suspend political (but not economic) ties with Austria. Israel has also withdrawn its ambassador, as it did between 1986 and 1992, when Kurt Waldheim served as President despite his Nazi past. While the worst-case scenario would be the suspension of Austria from the EU (it joined in 1995), the day-to-day operations of the EU will most probably not be affected.
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February 4th, 2000
Date Of Record Creation
April 3rd, 2003 at 12:38pm
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April 3rd, 2003 at 12:38pm
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