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Haider blames EU interference for Austria's isolation in 2000


Haider blames EU interference for Austria's isolation in 2000


Jörg Haider is chief of the relatively new but so far tiny “Alliance for Austria’s Future” party which is to be found on the country’s political far right. Haider has been well known in Europe since 2000 when as leader of the far-right “Freedom Party” he provoked a political crisis when it formed part of a government coalition – the result was an isolated Austria. Today, with elections this month, he is a man wanting to return to government. With the Social Democrats and the conservatives each said to command less than a third of the popular vote, smaller parties such as Haider’s could have a part to play in the election outcome. There is a possibility that Austria’s political direction could be altered, so what impact will this have on the rest of Europe? euronews’ Hans van der Brelie met Jörg Haider in Vienna.

euronews: “My first question is taken directly from your election manifesto – you say “we are against dictatorship” – what do you mean by this.?”

Jörg Haider: “Over the last few years we have lost many of our state powers to Brussels. This has provoked a negative reaction from the people – for example, within the context of the European Union’s reform treaty, we are losing control in areas such as justice , rights of asylum etc. These powers are all transferring to Brussels – and this annoys us enormously.”

euronews: “You would like to hold a referendum on the treaty?”

Jörg Haider: “We would like a referendum because we believe the people should be consulted on the fundamental changes being made in our relations with Brussels and with other EU countries.”

euronews: “We have just used the Austrian hello “gruss gott” which literally means “greetings to god” – do you believe in god?”

Jörg Haider: “Of course”

euronews: “Therefore do you believe your God is happy about your action to block the construction of any more mosques with minarets ?”

Jörg Haider: “I think yes, because if prayer houses are abused for fundamentalist objectives, this has nothing to do with religion and therefore they should not exist here. I am against Islamic fundamentalism in particular -it is spreading more and more in Europe. Take one prime minister of Turkey who said: “Our minarets are our bayonets, our domes our helmets, our mosques our barracks, our believers our soldiers!” “This makes me think that this has nothing to do with religion with peace. This is corrupted thought – I do not need visible symbols of such kinds of Islamic fundamentalist power-play. I think in my county we need a law against the perpetuation of this.”

euronews: “Perhaps such views do exist but the large majority of believers in Allah want to integrate into Austria… isn’t this an insult to them,to deny them their religious freedoms?”

Jörg Haider: “ Not at all!” “They left their countries, often because they did not want any more of this extremism -this fundamentalist approach towards their religion. Here, in Europe, in Austria they find it is possible to practise their beliefs when they pray in their mosques as they call them, but there is no need for the minarets.”

euronews: “You have already mentioned Turkey – does Turkey have a place in the European Union?”

Jörg Haider: “ I believe that Turkey is something of an ambiguity – neither Asian State, nor European. One must find a new way for Turkey. For sure Turkey is an important partner – to build a bridge regarding a common energy policy – we must ensure deliveries of gas and oil from the Caucuses and Asia. We must find a way not to be dependent on Russia.”

euronews: “From reading about your political views and from your election manifesto, I am a little disconcerted by your use of inflammatory remarks against asylum seekers… I don’t understand it.”

Jörg Haider: “ I do not make inflammatory remarks. A politician whose job is to ensure the safety of the population does not make inflamatory remarks. That probably comes from my critics. However, I do ask those asylum seekers who come to Austria seeking protection, to behave well, like a guest, but to keep in mind their presence here will only be tolerated for a limited time. And if they don’t behave well I say good luck and send them on their way – it is very simple, asylum seekers who break the law must leave the country.”

euronews: “ Back in 2000, it was policy that after 1945, no extreme right-wing participation in government would be acceptable in a EU member state.”

Jörg Haider: “Well we weren’t a right wing party. Since 1948/49 we were a political movement – we used to call ourselves something different – a political movement present in the Austrian parliament expressing a centre-right position.”

euronews: “In 2000, because of your party’s membership within the Austrian government , no top ranking European politician wanted to shake hands with government members. The isolation of the Austrian government lasted several months. Today in 2008 what has changed, you or Europe?”

Jörg Haider: “The European Union has recognised that democratic elections can’t be influenced from outside. Otherwise, the EU should have imposed sanctions against Italy, against Berlusconi and the Northern League, and all of these kinds of parties in power which share many of our ideas. The EU should have imposed sanctions against Denmark – where the government there completely cut itself off from Europe’s immigration policy and backed away from the EU. But no sanctions were imposed. This shows the EU wanted to make an example of Austria, to intimidate other member states.”

euronews: “As Austria’s general election moves nearer, who would you want to form a coalition with? The conservative “People’s Party” again? But they have distanced themselves from you as they are a pro-European integration party and you are against that. What sort of coalition would you like to create?”

Jörg Haider: “The people’s party has changed over the last few years with regards to security and immigration. They have learned a lot from us on the issue of fighting against the abuse of asylum seeking. In the election campaign they have put a lot of emphasis on areas which are completely compatible with our political programme – it goes to show just how important the existence of our party is.”

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