Austria: Values and Responsibilities

VIENNA: The formation of a new government coalition in Austria has given rise to international criticism. As Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria I take those concerns very seriously. However, in studying international media reports, I cannot but notice that Austria has repeatedly been described in a rather undifferentiated and unbalanced way; a way that stands in sharp contradiction to the realities in our country.

Over the last fifty years, Austria has always been a responsible and reliable partner in Europe and the entire international community. It will continue to live up to her traditional values and responsibilities, based on democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, openness, tolerance, humanitarian solidarity, a sense of duty and reliability.

These principles are reiterated in the Preamble to the Government Program. It was signed, on 3 February 2000, in the presence of Federal President Thomas Klestil, by myself and the chairman of the Austrian Freedom Party, Jörg Haider - who remains Governor of Carinthia and did not join the Federal Government. This document is binding on both of us as signatories, on our respective political parties, and on their democratically elected representatives. It will guide the future work of the Coalition Government.

Austria is strongly committed to the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law that are common to all EU member states. Significantly, two thirds of the Austrian electorate cast their votes in favor of membership in the European Union in 1994. This support was considerably higher than in any of the other fourteen member states when they were joining the European Union. In Austria's view, the Transatlantic Partnership, which has always been characterized by mutual respect and trust, will also have a special significance in ensuring future peace, stability, and prosperity.