The working group “Perspectives” fights for an end to the restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms in Austria and for an active peace policy in the country as a neutral state. With that in mind, on September 9, the group has a open letter formulated with nine questions for all candidates for the Federal President. In any case, whoever answers the questions excludes who he is standing for: the citizens – or the interests of others.
Read the open letter here:
Open letter to the Austrian presidential candidates
The working group “Perspectives” is made up of 20 groups, organizations and personalities who come from the most diverse areas of society. Independent and without political preferences, their joint work primarily aims to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms apply again in Austria without restrictions, and that Austria continues its active peace policy as a neutral state.
The working group asks the following questions to all federal presidential candidates up for election on October 9, 2022. We want to give people a guide and use the answers as a basis for our further educational work. We request that you provide written feedback on the 9 questions below by Wednesday, September 21, 2022 at the latest in order to make your answers available to a broader public. We thank you in advance for your efforts.
Yours sincerely, on behalf of the working group:
Helmut Sauseng, Günther Greindl, Monika Henninger, Hannes Hofbauer
Questions to the candidates for the election for the Federal President
- Austria has committed itself to perpetual neutrality. The war in Ukraine prompted Finland and Sweden to apply for membership in NATO. As a result, 50 well-known people wrote an open letter calling for a serious discussion about our neutrality. If you think it makes sense to join NATO, what reasons do you think speak for it?
- As a member of the European Union, Austria supports the Common Foreign and Security Policy in solidarity. This can lead to contradictions with neutrality. There are efforts within the EU to abolish the principle of unanimity in the common foreign and security policy, which means that Austria can no longer escape measures that are contrary to neutrality. Should Austria insist on maintaining unanimity, or should it support EU efforts to abolish unanimity?
- Austria is the first Western European country to take part in the US Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program. The BMLV partnered with the Vermont National Guard in July 2022. The program aims to establish close military ties with the US armed forces. Consider participation in the State Partnership Program compatible with neutrality. If so, what are the reasons for this? If not, what steps will you take to prevent neutrality from being further undermined?
- With the exception of Russia, Austria has not imposed sanctions on warring parties in any wars since 1945, even if they violate international law. Do you think the European Union’s sanctions against Russia are compatible with Austrian neutrality?
- Austria has used its neutral status in the past for an active peace policy. As the seat of the OSCE, it can take initiatives to revive confidence-building measures that have been interrupted by EU sanctions. As Federal President, you represent Austria externally and can communicate with the heads of state of other countries on an equal footing. Do you plan to take initiatives for peace? If yes, what would you do specifically?
- As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, you share responsibility for Austria’s military security. The Neutrality Act provides for defending neutrality “with all available means”. Furthermore, according to the constitution, the federal army should be organized according to the principle of the militia. A militia requires compulsory military exercises. Federal Minister Maga Klaudia Tanner has called for an increase in the defense budget to 1.5% of GDP by 2027. How do you feel about increasing defense spending and reintroducing military exercises? What other needs do you see for improving Austrian security?
- In the past two years, the fundamental rights to physical integrity and personal freedom have been massively violated by various Covid measures in the name of security promises that cannot be kept and are therefore disproportionate. People who did not conform to the government line, or only to a limited extent, were discredited and socially excluded. Despite data that is now available worldwide and the withdrawal of the statutory vaccination requirement in Austria, the vaccination pressure on employees in companies, for health professionals or even in schools for our children is massive! This led and still leads to exclusion, physical and psychological problems and further to a deep division in society. What will you do to restore the fundamental rights and liberties for all people living in our country to the inviolable status provided for by the constitution and to ensure their future observance, as well as to overcome the divisions in society?
- Recently, numerous laws have been passed without public discussion, sometimes even without sufficient opportunity for comment. For example, the changes in the Medicines Act in the course of combating the pandemic. In the Democracy Report of the University of Gothenburg, Austria was downgraded to a second-class electoral democracy, not only because of the corruption scandals. The strengthening of direct democracy is a widespread wish of the population. How do you feel about direct democracy and what measures do you think make sense? What actions would you take as Federal President?
- The wave of inflation is driving more and more people into existential poverty. At the same time, energy suppliers, especially many operators of hydroelectric power plants, are making exorbitant profits. Wiener Wohnen and Wien Energie are also pushing prices up sharply. This results in significantly higher tax revenues for the state. Will you do this on behalf of the population, and if so, how?