National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) has backtracked in part after fierce criticism of the questionable historical comparisons he had made. In “Club 3”, the President of the National Council compared Russia’s attack on Ukraine with the situation in Austria in 1945 – the liberation from the Nazi regime. This was inappropriate, said a spokesman for the President of the National Council on Saturday to the APA. He specified another comparison to the committee of inquiry.
Sobotka had been asked whether Austria was currently prepared to take in war refugees. The answer: “Ukrainians must remain in Ukraine and ultimately defend their country. What would have happened if all Austrians had fled after 1945?” He was referring to the Allied victory against the Nazi regime that year.
In the same conversation, when discussing his chairmanship of the U-Committee, Sobotka said: “It will not be possible to kick someone out with constant insinuations.” And further: “Then you could also kick out the second president and the third president. And then who should do it? We’ve had that before – in 1933.”
“Stunned” by these statements was SPÖ Vice Club boss Jörg Leichtfried about the “intolerable historical comparisons” Sobotkas. “If Sobotka equates the situation in Ukraine with Austria in 1945 – that is, Russia’s war of aggression with Austria’s liberation from the Nazi regime – then that’s a shame,” said Leichtfried. The statements on the elimination of Parliament in 1933 are further evidence “that he is unsuitable for the office”.
The NEOS reacted similarly. “These are completely otherworldly comparisons. As a historian, President Sobotka knows that too. I urgently appeal to him to withdraw these statements immediately and to apologize for them,” said deputy club chairman Nikolaus Scherak in a broadcast.
For the liberal faction leader in the U-Committee, Christian Hafenecker, Sobotka is unbearable as chairman “after these crude historical comparisons”. In the interest of the dignity of the House of Representatives, he had to “give up the chair”, instead the second President of the National Council, Doris Bures (SPÖ), should take over the chair of the committee. In any case, the comparisons with 1933 and 1945 are “simply incomprehensible,” said Hafenecker.
Sobotka himself reacted to the criticism and described his Ukraine comparison with Austria in 1945 as “inappropriate”, as his spokesman said. He just wanted to express “that it is important to help and protect people first and foremost on site”. In his written statement, he no longer referred to the year 1945 he mentioned, but emphasized his commitment to the project “Give a smile – bear responsibility” for socially disadvantaged orphans from Russia and the Ukraine.
Sobotka, on the other hand, specified the statements on the U-Committee. He wanted to express “that nowadays people are working more and more with prejudices, regardless of the actual legal basis,” said a spokesman for the President of the National Council to the APA. The rules of procedure of the National Council do not provide for bias for members of parliament – like the presidents – because they are legitimized by the election. The cudgel of bias could be aimed at each chairman, with the result that the U-committee could not be carried out. The comparison with 1933 therefore only referred to the resignations of chairmen and not to the National Council meeting that was prevented by the police of the Dollfuss regime.