Costas Iordanidis COSTAS IORDANIDIS

The Austrian issue

COMMENT

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz holds a news conference after meeting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (not pictured) in Brussels on Tuesday.

TAGS: Politics, EU

The European Union adapts to political reality as this is shaped by member-states. This can be seen in the handling of the “Austrian issue” which emerged after the country’s radical populist right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) became part of the country’s governing coalition.

There can be no comparison to the reactions and the sanctions imposed on Vienna when then Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel formed a coalition in 2000 with the party then led by Joerg Haider.

Europe’s reaction back then proved fruitless. It could be said that today’s response has been a more pragmatic one.

At the end of the day, developments on the “Austrian issue” mark the end of a delusion regarding a homogeneous political behavior by nation-states, imposed from above. This marks some progress, but it is also a sign that the European idea has waned.

A less prominent case perhaps was the proposal by European Council President Donald Tusk on Europe’s migration policy, which was dictated by the sensibilities of the Visegrad Group.

Notably, the Austrian Republic emerged, like the Visegrad states, from the collapse of the Habsburg Empire – the key difference being that it was lucky to escape Soviet domination.

There are clear signs that the project to create “homo Europaeus” has failed. It should come as no surprise, because after all there is a precedent. When the ideologues of the French Revolution put forward the idea of “man,” a conservative critic of the revolution, Joseph de Maistre, said, “I have met Italians, Russians, Spaniards, Englishmen, Frenchmen, but I do not know man.” De Maistre was right. What exists is nations operating in accordance with their nature and particular characteristics.

In a sense, the most important issue is that the “extreme right” is no longer excluded from European politics.

Juncker’s statement that Austria’s “government has taken a position that is clearly in favor of Europe and that is what counts for me” and the claim that he also cooperates with the “extreme-right” coalition partner of Alexis Tsipras in Greece were more a sign of uncertainty. Juncker forgot to mention Hungary and Poland.

The EU seems focused around one objective – and that is the euro currency, at least for as long as it serves the interests of Germany and the present establishment. It can be flexible about the rest. Euro enthusiasts at home should not foster any delusions.

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