After some media attacks on the “Soldiers for Neutrality” rally on September 21, 2022 in Vienna, which was not surprising, things are now moving on in parliament. As part of a question in the National Council, members of parliament from the Greens are now attacking two officers of the Austrian Armed Forces who are active and courageously raised their voices at the Human Rights Square in favor of maintaining Austria’s permanent neutrality.
A comment by Andrea Drescher
No wonder with one Green Vice-Chancellor Kogler, who denounced Austria’s constitutionally anchored neutrality with the shockingly succinct remark “Anyone who is neutral is an accomplice!” sweeps off the table.
On October 3rd, 2022, the homepage of the Austrian Parliament contained a request from the Green MPs Eva Blimlinger, David Stögmüller, and friends to the Federal Minister of Defense regarding the participation of army officers in the rally of the “Soldaten für Neutralität” group on September 21st, 2022 found in Vienna.
The file is named imfname_… if you delete “me”, the name is a permutation of the word “infam”. That fits well: the parliamentary question from the Greens is full of false statements and also contains defamation.
So you can read there: “According to information on the website, the group “stands for Austria’s neutrality” against sanctions against Russia and against the cooperation of Austrian intelligence services with those of the United States”.
The fact is: the group is standing for compliance with the federal constitutional law of October 26, 1955 on Austria’s neutrality, which is probably still valid at the moment. And that has consequences.
Article 1 of the Federal Constitutional Law states the following:
(1) For the purpose of permanently asserting its independence to the outside world and for the purpose of the inviolability of its territory, Austria voluntarily declares its permanent neutrality. Austria will maintain and defend this with all the means at its disposal.
(2) In order to safeguard these purposes, Austria will not join any military alliances in the future and will not permit the establishment of military bases by foreign states on its territory.
The fact that Austria takes part in the following military actions
- EU Battlegroups (i.e. EU Crisis Response Force battlegroups),
- PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation),
- NATO PFP (Partnership for Peace) and
- US drone program by the Bundesheer listening station Königswarte near Hainburg in Lower Austria, which was financially supported by the USA,
Contradicts the above article of the Federal Constitution. Participation in sanctions that only affect one of the two warring parties is also difficult to reconcile with our country’s legally enshrined status of perpetual neutrality.
Further one can read in the parliamentary question:
“According to information, in addition to several formerly active soldiers – including a retired general and a colonel – at least two active officers of the Austrian armed forces are said to have helped organize the rally.”
I do not know where the parliamentarians get their information from. The fact is: the organization team included three other active members besides me: Klaus Schreiner, Elfie Greiter and retired colonel Gottfried Pausch. Other participants with military rank were only invited as speakers and had nothing to do with the planning or organization of the rally.
Longer paragraphs now follow about two of the officers involved, in which they are placed in the right-wing extremist corner. I do not want to comment on the content at this point, since I only met both gentlemen at the rally. However, given the infamous framing of the entire request, I am inclined to strongly doubt the statements made here as well.
To the next passage:
„The rally was announced and promoted in many, including right-wing extremist and corona-critical circles; This is also the case on the official Telegram channel of the convicted right-wing extremist Martin Sellner.”
Here the inquirers work just as perfidiously as some media, which declare a rally to be a “rally of Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis” because a convicted Holocaust deniers – namely Gottfried Küssel – was sighted there. Yes. Also the call was shared in Martin Sellner’s channel. Here the question arises for me: “If a neo-Nazi looks at his watch and says it’s 5:30 p.m. – do we all have to throw our watches away?” And then I would like to ask the green requesters: “How do you want to prevent your events from being disseminated by people whose political views you do not share.”
From the organizational team it was clear from the start that the rally had to be absolutely neutral. So you could and can read on the website:
„In order to do justice to Austria’s neutrality during the event, no party flags or flags from other countries are permitted. Posters relating to other important topics are also not welcome. Our stewards are instructed to pay attention to this. We are happy about the Austrian flag, white flags or the blue peace flags. We ask for your understandings.“
And just as Holocaust deniers have the right to demonstrate as human beings against a possible compulsory vaccination, identitarians must be allowed to stand up for neutrality. Even if I personally don’t want to have anything to do with Küssel and Sellner – or the associated groups of people – absolutely nothing at all: We (supposedly still) live in a constitutional state, so that’s a matter of course.
But just as Gottfried Küssel provided the appropriate framing for the critics of the Corona measures, Martin Sellner is used several times to frame the neutrality rally.
The parliamentary question continues with the words:
“The entire rally was recorded and streamed by one of Sellner’s regular companions, Manuel Müllner.”
I know Manuel Müllner personally, have carried out a number of campaigns with him in recent years and therefore know that he is not politically anchored on the right. According to his own statements, he was in contact with Sellner to get background information about Gottfried Küssel, who kept appearing at the Corona demos. When I asked if he was a “regular” companion of Sellner – as claimed by the Greens – he said:
“I’m not a regular companion. I’ve never been to any of his demos and have always tried to avoid him. So I’m not a companion either and wouldn’t see myself as one. Unfortunately, in the scene criticizing the government course, one is all too carelessly associated with right-wing extremism, and thus automatically with Sellner.”
It should also be a matter of course that in a constitutional state you can talk to anyone without deriving any agreement on content. How the inquirers come to the statement of the “regular companion” is completely inexplicable to me. Manuel Müllner, who has withdrawn from the demo scene for months and only took over the streaming at my request, reserves the right to take legal action against the green requesters.
Now that the entire rally is positioned in the Nazi corner, the questioners go back to the two officers of the active stand. Mitterer is accused of mentioning his professional background. Gaiswinkler shall “quoted a (classified, I fear) “intelligence service report” towards the end of an otherwise inconspicuous speech” to have.
After this unobjective and unconvincing introduction, the actual questions are put to Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner, which in my opinion aims to discredit both officers or indirectly request the BMLV to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the two soldiers.
The BMLV was informed early on about the planning of the rally. The press office of the BMLV received an email from me on August 9th, 2022. I received no response from the Department of Defense, which we took as “tacit acknowledgment.”
In particular, the 4th set of questions points to a “special” type of legal understanding among the enquirers:
Was the “Soldiers for Neutrality” event considered anti-state?
a. If yes, on what grounds?
b. If no, why not?
c. If so, was there information about this given to all members of the BMLV in which participation was prohibited?
i.e. If not, why wasn’t this information available?
e. What measures have been taken to prevent active parts of the armed forces from participating?
How can a rally be judged subversive when the speakers appeal for the Austrian government to take a serious interest in maintaining the legally enshrined perpetual neutrality?
In Austria, for example, are citizens in uniform no longer allowed to demand conscientious observance of neutrality in public?
Talking about neutrality is easy, especially for a peace activist like me. Much easier than for the people for whom defending their own country is part of their “everyday work”. On World Peace Day, therefore, those for whom war is a sad reality had their say. Our thanks go to the soldiers who had the courage to stand up for permanent neutrality at the rally – and no attacks by politicians who are obviously interested in extending the war to Austria.
As the person who was allowed to open the rally on September 21, 2022, I am extremely appalled by this development.
When I was young in Germany, I was an active member of the Greens and their predecessor party, the Green List for Environmental Protection, and have been active in the peace movement for years. It never occurred to me that as a peace activist I would find myself on a stage with soldiers to promote neutrality. But finally the question: why are there party members of the peace and environmental party of the Greens who seem to be mobilizing for war with all their might – and want to get rid of everything that stands in the way?
I would be really interested in the answer to that.
The opinion of guest authors does not have to correspond to the editorial policy or the opinion of the Report24 editorial team.