Austria's New Security Concept

The Break Away of a Former Non-Aligned and Neutral Country in the Light of the Developing CESDP

By Dr. Georg Schöfbänker
Director, Austrian Information-Center for Security Policy and Arms Control, Linz.


Since end of Feb. 2000 a new Austrian government came to office including an extreme right-wing party, the Freedom Party (FPÖ). Since then, the new Austrian government is isolated within EU and most of the world, as no other national government of an EU-member state has ever been in history. Despite this domestic and home grown isolation caused by the fact that the FPÖ constantly has conducted a racist, exclusionary, and jingoistic policy in a style which is exceptionally repugnant, the security concept of the new Austrian government is in some way completely ad odds with ESDI and ESDP as outlined at the EU-summits from Cologne to Helsinki in 1999.

The new governmental agreement between the Peoples Party and the FPÖ proposes and demands inter alia:

  • "that a guarantee of mutual assistance between the EU countries become part of the EU body of law ... in the event of an armed attack on one member state the other EU states will afford it all the military and other aid and assistance in their power, in accordance with the provisions of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter".
  • "that, in the event of a further development of Austria's foreign and security policy ... the federal constitutional law on neutrality will be redrafted to make it clear that it does not apply to Austria's active participation ... in the development of the European Union's common security and defence policy and to participation in a European peace, security and defence community ... including a guarantee of mutual assistance."
  • "... Austria will be enabled to support peace operations of other international organizations that are carried out without a pertinent UN Security Council resolution but in compliance with the principles of the UN Charter in order to prevent humanitarian disasters or to put an end to severe and systematic human rights violations."

These proposals and demands are likely to cause raised eyebrows. Why should the EU incorporate in its body of law a mutual military assistance guarantee between EU countries which already exits within WEU and NATO? In case of the ongoing EU enlargement negotiations such a guarantee might provoke Russia as did NATO expansion on unnecessary reasons.

Anyway, the new Austrian security concept has made clear that the current government will likely apply for NATO membership next year, when, after the Russian and US presidential elections have been decided, NATO will have to define its further course of cooperation or enlargement policy. Austria is hoping to be part of a 'three-pack-enlargement' together with Slovenia and Slovakia which would constitute a joint strategic territory in the middle of Europe. One of the concession made to NATO for applying membership are - as mentioned above - to be part of a possible intervention force without a UN Security Council mandate. This is NATO's own language as of 'Washington's new strategic concept' and has been introduced and tested in NATO's Kosovo intervention. On the domestic scene it is definitely unclear whether this current government will sustain three months or years. The opposition has a minority to block all constitutionally changes in order to applying for NATO-membership.

As to NATO's reaction there are four possible choices: (1) general denial. This would constitute a paradox for NATO, because this internationally isolated government for the first time wrote a NATO membership into its program. (2) Embrace and containment of possible right wing dangers as NATO did historically in case of West Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany could be integrated in the early post-World War II period only under the supervision of NATO on a long-term basis into the west. (3) Ignoring the wish of Austria's NATO-application. If there will be a formal second NATO enlargement this likely will include Slovakia and Slovenia. It would make sense for NATO to include Austria as well to close the territorial gap in the middle of Europe. (4) An intensified cooperation below the public perception threshold. That stands in the governmental program. And that slope this government wants to go along in order to create therewith irreversible facts for a full membership. Most likely, this will happen.



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