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Oct 162009
 

Commenters and politicians in Europe appear to take the final  ratification of the Lisbon Treaty for granted. Speculations, nominations and campaigning for the top posts is rampant. The Czech President is not taken seriously and an object of ridicule all through Europe. “Couldn’t someone carry this man out of the Presidential Palace” writes a normally serious blog by the Brussels representation of the Swedish Trade Unions under the heading “Reinfeldt would tear his hair if he had any.” (Reinfeldt is the Swedish Prime Minister presently Chairman of the European Council  and a bald man).

We fear this might be a great illusion. During a recent meeting with Russian President Medvedev, Klaus smilingly told the TV crews that he would never sign the Treaty unless it was changed. (Medvedev also smiled.) Obviously, new negotiations are out of the question but this seems to be exactly what Klaus insists on. A less formal decision by the Heads of State has been seen as a possible way out. A spokesperson for the Austrian government has clearly stated that the only acceptable solution for their part would be a unilateral declaration by the Czech, something that obviously would not satisfy Mr. Klaus, particularly not since his real objective is to postpone ratification until after the British elections.

That the Sudeten issue is dynamite in Austrian politics may not be well understood outside the country. It is unthinkable Continue reading »

Oct 102009
 

GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vastly deep
HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, so can any man. But will they come when you do call for them?
(Henry IV, Act III)

The content of the “footnote” that President Klaus wants to introduce in the Lisbon Treaty has now become somewhat clearer. Apparently he wants an assurance that the Human Rights Charter would not be used as a basis for restoration claims from the Sudeten Germans whose property was confiscated when they were driven out of Czechoslovakia after the World War when the so called Benes Decrees were issued in 1946. It should be noted in this context that people -also foreigners- that were disowned by the communist regime have been very successful with restoration claims in Czechoslovakia.

This is extremely dangerous territory. The issue was, however, thoroughly discussed during the access negotiations with the Czech Republic (and with Slovenia which was in a similar situation.) At one period both Germany and Austria insisted that the Benes Decrees must be revoked before the Czech Republic could become a member.  The Czechs, under President Havel, protested vigorously. Finally the German government (Messrs Schröder and Fischer) accepted a compromise in Continue reading »

Jun 082009
 

Just a quick comment to the results of yesterday’s EP election. Contrary to the general trend the participation rate in Sweden increased from 37.8 % to 43.1. In all likelihood this is mainly a result of the appearance of the Pirate Party which got 7.1 % of the vote and 1 seat (2 seats if Lisbon get in force – which of course now seems increasingly unlikely, particularly because of the disastrous results in the UK and Ireland).

On the surface some tendencies in the Swedish results would look encouraging. The EU-critical, not to say hypocritical, parties faced a disaster. The ex-communists could see their share of the vote halved and the peculiar “Junilistan” lost their 3 seats and were eliminated. The most out-spoken pro-EU party, the Peoples Party, increased their share strongly and will get one additional seat. The biggest parties, both on the Government and the opposition side, which both have been Continue reading »

May 052009
 

Untergang des Abenlandes

The above is an EP election poster in Vienna for the FPÖ, the right wing party once revived by Jörg Haider, now in the hands of extremist populists, worse than Haider and not so sophisticated.  “Our course is clear: The West should stay in Christian hands” is an approximate translation. In addition the general theme of the campaign: “The Day of Reckoning.”

The poster is of course directed against Turkish membership, perhaps also against immigration from Muslim countries,  but I wonder whether it would be possible to formulate it this way in any other member country?

On a more scurrilous note: The top candidate of the conservative party, ÖVP, is former Minister of the Interior Ernst Strasser. While still Minister, Mr. Strasser once organized a Press Conference where he announced that he had just watched a documentary from Iceland called Citizen Cam. This film showed how crime and street violence had been eradicated in Reykjavik through the  setting up of 400 video cameras in the streets of the city, all sending live on Icelandic TV!  This had quickly become the most popular TV-channel in Iceland.  Because of its apparent success, Mr. Strasser proposed that the same kind of system should be introduced in Vienna.

What Mr. Strasser hadn’t understood was that the film (shown in the French/German Arte channel) was a so called “mockumentary”, that is to say entirely fictitious but pretending to be a documentary. It had been made as a contribution to the discussion of video surveillance and personal integrity.

In order to give this post a Nordic touch, please let me inform you that “Austrian Minister of the Interior” is called ”innanríkisrádherra Austurrikis” in Icelandic.

Jan 082009
 

This is somehow a follow-up to the previous post on smoking in Austria. Leading daily newspaper Die Presse presents a guide to restaurants and cafés where you can smoke in peace. As if that would be a problem!

Comments from readers are hilarious: to prohibit smoking is an infringement on personal liberty. “Eating, sleeping, breathing (!), smoking and drinking are thousand year old traditions.” We must be tolerant: smokers should tolerate non-smokers and vice versa.

Jan 022009
 

Feel like a smoke? Welcome to Austria and all its famous cafés and excellent restaurants. True, there have been some restrictions imposed lately but no-one has noticed  or cared. As of Jan 1st this year a new law has entered into force prohibiting smoking on all premises to which the general public has access which includes localities where food and drink is served. Fortunately there are so many exceptions to this obligation that no change is likely. (Vienna Airport Continue reading »