Written Answers. - European Union Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

21 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if normal relations have been fully restored between the EU and Austria. [15013/02]

Following the formation of a coalition government in Austria on 4 February, 2000 which included the Austrian Freedom Party, FPO1, the other fourteen member states adopted a series of measures under which official bilateral meetings with Austria were suspended, contacts with Austrian Ambassadors in EU capitals were restricted and support was withheld from Austrian candidates for positions in international organisations. These measures stemmed from concern that the FPO1 had espoused policies which were in conflict with fundamental EU values and norms of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

The agreed measures related to the bilateral relations between each member state and Austria. They did not touch on the conduct of EU business, nor on the standing of Austria as a member state of the European Union.

Shortly after its formation in February, the new Austrian government published a programme endorsing EU integration and rejecting racism. Subsequently Jorg Haider resigned as leader of the FPO1 and at its party conference on 1 May 2000, the FPO1 committed itself to a statement reaffirming the common principles of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. At the end of June 2000, the EU Presidency issued a statement on behalf of the fourteen requesting the President of the European Court of Human Rights to appoint three rapporteurs to deliver a report on Austria.
The commission of three presented its findings, known as the "three wise men report", on 8 September, 2000 which stated that minority, immigrant and refugee rights were as well protected in Austria as elsewhere in the EU and that the actions by the fourteen other member states had helped to increase awareness in Austria of such rights and the common EU values in existence. Following the publication of this report the measures announced on 31 January 2000 were lifted on 12 September 2000. Since that date relations between Austria and its EU partners have continued as normal.