Opinion

Boycott the FPÖ and Austria's Upcoming EU Presidency

Austrians and non-Austrians must fight the racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and xenophobic Freedom Party of Austria. It represents a mortal danger for democracy and Europe

A Dec. 6, 2016 file photo of Herbert Kickl, Austria's new interior minister.
Ronald Zak/AP

It is not just any populist party that has assumed powerful positions in the new Austrian government: They are the true heirs of Nazism, which they tirelessly try to rehabilitate.

However, it is not only because it was established by former SS members and due to its nostalgia for the Third Reich that the Freedom Party of Austria must be vigorously fought against, but particularly due to what they are today: a radically racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic and antidemocratic party with a strong pro-fascist dimension.

Indeed, the FPÖ is host to the neo-Nazis and genocide-deniers of today. Almost half of its current parliamentarians belong to “Germanic fraternities” forbidden to Jews, homosexuals and women, and reserved for those who belong to a gruesomely fantasized "Aryan race.” Very recently it was disclosed that the fraternity of a leading regional FPÖ candidate had called to “gas a seventh million Jews.” Even today the newspaper of the current Austrian minister of defense, who is in charge of the military, qualifies the survivors of the Holocaust as a “national plague.”

A proposal by Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl, who will guide the European Union's policy on asylum after assuming its presidency in the second half of this year – if nothing is done until then to prevent it – would “concentrate the refugees” in camps. As recently as last year, he was a guest speaker at the congress of the neo-fascist youth group Identitäre. “Viennese blood, too much foreignness, it is good for nobody” is one of its most recent slogans.

It is today’s Europe and democracy that the FPÖ wants to destroy.

Even when compared to the ministers who, for the first time, entered the Austrian government in 2000 – an event that quickly led the European countries to suspend all bilateral cooperation – the current far-right ministers are radicals who now publicly express their hatred because of 15 years of moral, ethical and political recession in Europe.

FPÖ represents a mortal danger for democracy and Europe. That is why, in Austria as elsewhere on the Continent, we are all threatened, and we must all get involved.

The fight to be led does not put Austria in opposition to the rest of Europe or the world. It puts the democrats, whatever their citizenships and their identities, in opposition to the irrevocable enemies of democracy. Permitting the ideologies that have brought about the destruction of Europe to spread will not help build its future. Vigorously fighting for its basic humanist values will.

That is why we, Austrians and non-Austrians together, attached to the values of democracy and to the European ideal, call on civil society and on the political leaders of European countries to demonstrate solidarity. The latter must not abandon the Austrian democrats under the pretext that the government platform does not plan to call for a referendum on leaving the EU.

Abandoning the Austrian democrats, despite the beautiful popular mobilization they have recently been engaged in, would be abandoning Europe and its fundamental values. It would be, in the name of short-sighted calculations, allowing the destruction of the most precious thing we have had in common since World War II.

Concretely, Austrians and non-Austrians together, we call on the leaders of European countries to boycott the FPÖ ministers and Austria's assumption of the rotating EU presidency, from July 1 to December 31, 2018.

In practice, this means that far-right Austrian ministers should not be received by any of their European counterparts, who should not attend any meeting or encounter with them.

This also means a boycott by heads of state and governments, as well as by the ministers, of Austria's EU presidency.

Our common moral and political leap will determine the nature of our shared destiny, in Austria as elsewhere in Europe.

Benjamin Abtan is president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) and coordinator of the Elie Wiesel Network of Parliamentarians of Europe for the Prevention of Mass Atrocities; Bernard Kouchner is former minister of foreign affairs in France; Miguel-Angel Moratinos is former minister of foreign affairs in Spain; Jose Ramos-Horta is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former president of the Democratic Republic of East Timor; and some 90 other signatories from around the world, including academics, journalists, artists, politicians, and representatives of Jewish, human rights, Holocaust remembrance, feminist and refugee organizations, and of groups fighting racism, fascism, anti-Semitism, etc.