Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 3 February 1993

When, almost two years ago, I had the privilege of addressing you from this very spot, I was obliged, in view of the bloody conflicts in the Gulf and the Baltic at that time, to make a very bitter assessment in many respects. Two years on, I have little reason to paint that dismal picture in brighter colours. Again people are dying because of their convictions or because they belong to a particular religious or ethnic group, the most elementary human rights are being trampled under foot and atrocities are being committed that we thought no longer possible in Europe. The brute force being inflicted in these conflicts by human beings on other human beings is contrary to the idea of a peaceful and democratic Europe which we have been striving to achieve since long before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

It was the Council of Europe, with inspired vision, that in the early post-war years developed the idea of a union embracing the whole of Europe, in which the protection of human rights and respect for human dignity enjoy pride of place. The daily, flagrant violations of human rights in the former Yugoslavia, in the Caucasus and elsewhere are consequently also a slap in the face for this noble vision of the Council of Europe.

There has been no lack of efforts to get a grip on these conflicts and to put into practice the democratic principles so much vaunted by the United Nations and the CSCE, as well as by the Council of Europe. We must admit to ourselves, however, that all these efforts have so far had little success and that all our hopes have in the end been disappointed.

In addition, there has recently been a noticeable tendency in western Europe to tire of integration and a tendency towards nationalistic solutions. However, that must not lead to depression or inaction. The Europe experiment, which I prefer to call the Europe project, may have suffered some delay, but it has not failed. First, postponement does not mean cancellation and secondly, for the sake of our continent's future, the project simply must not fail!

No doubt the expectations of many, raised by the impressive images of 1989, when walls were torn down and forty years of division in Europe were eliminated, were too high. The war in Yugoslavia especially has shown moreover that this Europe has great expectations, but does not – at least not yet – have the structures necessary to realise the vision of a unified, peaceful Europe.

But, for all these setbacks, we should not overlook the progress which has been achieved, such as the enlargement eastwards of the Council of Europe. It is still a great joy for me to see in your midst parliamentarians from the new democracies as full members of this Assembly. The presence of numerous special guests from countries that, we hope, will soon take their place in the hemicycle, also gives me great satisfaction.

We are witnesses of a development that will continue to be difficult and strenuous, but which in the end, I am convinced, will lead to a peaceful European order. Whether this expectation can be fulfilled will not least depend on how quickly we can succeed in bringing the countries of central and eastern Europe closer to the principles enshrined in the Council of Europe statute of democracy, the protection of human rights and the rule of law. But we must also realise that, without adequate resources and manpower, the organisation will not be in a position to perform this task.

Building on the idea of an undivided Europe and on a community of values to whose definition the Council of Europe has made a decisive contribution, we must endeavour to construct a comprehensive European security system, embracing a stable political system within and protection against aggressors from without, which protects its citizens effectively against arbitrary power and guarantees them the exercise of their basic rights and freedoms. Such a security system is to be understood in a comprehensive sense. It includes military, economic and social security as well as “democratic security”, to use an expression coined by the Secretary General, and embraces the freedom of cultural life and the protection of ethnic or religious minorities.

In past times of economic boom, to many it may not have seemed so necessary to emphasise the primacy of full employment. Yet it was there – as the central prerequisite for all other named objectives in state and society.

The leadership expected of politicians, not least in European policy, entails firmly setting full employment as the objective. The kaleidoscopic changes of the last three years in Europe have plunged a great many people into uncertainty and apprehension. A safe job and a secure income are bound to be the elementary prerequisites if people are to perceive European unification as also bringing progress in their own lives and so to have a positive attitude towards the unification process. Several European institutions and organisations are working with different emphasis on the realisation of the vision of a united Europe. In historical terms, this process is relatively recent, so it is not surprising that the various institutions often work in parallel instead of in unison to achieve this objective and there is often overlapping which may sometimes result in synergy, but often leads to a waste of limited resources and to loss through friction.

The problems facing us are enormous. That is why it is high time once again to define the place which the Council of Europe should have in the future architecture of Europe, to identify the fields of activity on which our organisation should concentrate, and finally to define the Council of Europe's relations with the other European institutions. A sensible division of responsibilities in Europe is something which absolutely must be tackled in the interests of the Council of Europe's future.

In view of the urgency of this task, the Austrian Federal Government has taken up a suggestion which the President of the French Republic put forward here, on this rostrum, in May of last year: to invite the heads of state and of government of the member states of the Council of Europe to a summit conference in Vienna. That meeting, as you know, will take place on 8 and 9 October of this year and I should like at this point, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, to thank you for the undivided approval with which you supported this proposal from the outset. I am pleased that the conscientious, substantial preparation of the summit has made a good start and that co-operation between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly is running smoothly.

The upheavals of the last four years have also brought a complete change of context for the Council of Europe. This first meeting of the heads of state and of government in the history of the Council of Europe is not only necessary for the future of the organisation, but also affords a great opportunity to give a major boost to the reshaping of Europe.

The contribution which the Council of Europe can make to consolidating a democratic Europe will be one of the central themes of the summit conference. Very special importance will be attached to the enlargement of the Council of Europe and the way in which this enlargement can serve the further realisation of democracy and the rule of law, without jeopardising the standards established by long practice. The Vienna Summit must be action-oriented and work out concrete solutions to concrete problems. We believe therefore that the conference should concentrate on those clearly defined areas in which the Council of Europe, through its experience and its authority, has so far been able to make a substantial contribution.

In my opinion, the Council of Europe can make a fundamental contribution to solving this problem by framing a binding international instrument for the protection of minorities. Here again, the Parliamentary Assembly has done some important preliminary work, and I am delighted that, on the basis of a proposal from my country, the Assembly has submitted a draft additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the protection of national minorities. I hope that, on the basis of this preparatory work, it will be possible to achieve significant progress on this highly important question at the Vienna Summit meeting.

However we respond to the new – or not so new – phenomena of violence, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia will be of decisive importance for Europe's future.

The increasingly difficult material situation and the fear of being relegated to the fringe of society are reflected to a growing extent in aggressiveness and social disorientation on the part of many of our citizens. On top of this, only three years after the collapse of communism, the legitimacy of our own political system is increasingly called into question in the face of growing economic, social and environmental challenges.

We political leaders will be required to propose answers to these questions, prove the credibility of the democratic process and build confidence among our peoples in the process of European unification. For one thing is clear: the problems with which we are confronted can only be solved jointly through Europe-wide co-operation based on our common values.

These values which are the foundation stones of our civilisation – tolerance, openness and solidarity – must be defended and consolidated actively and with a sense of commitment. I see an encouraging sign in the fact that, across Europe, in all political, religious and social groups, there is currently a spontaneous counter-movement to this unfortunate trend towards violence and aggressiveness. In this connection, I should like to mention the impressive demonstration which, a few days ago, brought 250 000 people together in my country's capital city to protest against intolerance.

In the face of this danger, the Council of Europe, which is the foremost defender of human rights and of the dignity of all human beings, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs, has a duty to speak out. I am grateful, therefore, that some countries, including Norway and Turkey, have put this subject on the agenda of the Vienna Summit and that the Council of Europe is working on a practical plan for combating racism and xenophobia.

Even before the events of 1989, the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a very forward-looking attitude towards the countries of eastern Europe. Let us not forget that the European Cultural Convention was the focus for the first moves towards a rapprochement between the two halves of Europe, which, at that time, were still divided.

The work of the Council of Europe should not be viewed exclusively from the standpoint of values and ideals, such as the protection of human rights. We have become aware that the Council of Europe also plays an important role in maintaining peace on our continent. Security is not confined to military or socio-economic considerations but has also become a question of the mentality, the outlook and the democratic attitude of the European citizen and European society.

This is the Council of Europe's great task: to form a factor for integration in Europe which, through respect for human rights, humanist values and democratic principles, helps to ensure that, together, instead of creating new frontiers in Europe, we continue to forge our European identity or, in the words of Edgar Morin, our “common destiny”.


Thank you, Mr Vranitzky. Sixteen colleagues have said that they would like to ask questions. If they are disciplined and do not make speeches or statements but rather ask questions, each one may be able to ask an additional question. We start with Mr Berg.

Mr BERG (Norway)

The Parliamentary Assembly has expressed the hope that the forthcoming Vienna Summit will give new political impetus or esteem to the countries of Europe. In your speech, you said that the summit should be action-oriented. Is Austria prepared to support the Assembly's proposals to this effect, such as a revision of the Council's statutes? Will you elaborate a little on the possible result that you foresee resulting from the summit conference, not only as a host, but in real political terms.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

It is, I believe, extremely important, as I tried to indicate just now, that we define our essential political aims and work at ensuring that the political will is there to a sufficient extent to implement the aims we have defined together. I believe that as a consequence of this there should be a revision of the legal provisions of the Statute.

Mrs HALLER (Switzerland) (translation)

Chancellor, I should first of all like to thank you very much for your interesting and encouraging remarks, encouraging especially for the Council of Europe.

I had intended to ask you three questions, but you have answered two of them already. I am very happy that at the conference in Vienna you advocate pushing ahead with the question of minorities and also making the machinery for the protection of human rights more efficient.

Last year, in connection with the discussion on the terrible events in the former Yugoslavia, the Parliamentary Assembly debated a suggestion made by Lord Owen that official machinery should also be created for European states which are not yet members of the Council of Europe in order to censure violations of human rights in those states. The Parliamentary Assembly will be discussing the relevant report this afternoon.

I should like to ask you whether Austria will support this idea and whether you see a possibility of taking a step further in this matter too at the Vienna Summit.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

I am speaking to you in my capacity as a member of the executive and not as a member of parliament. I therefore do not have the right to anticipate the opinions of freely elected MPs. However, I should like to say to you that we Austrian politicians basically have a very positive stance on the question you have raised.

Mrs HALLER (Switzerland) (translation)

May I perhaps make one more remark: do you see the possibility of the Vienna Summit also taking a step forward on this issue?

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

I see a possibility of this step being taken, and I hope that it will be.

Mr SEITLINGER (France) (translation)

Mr Chancellor, as a friend of your country, in which I once lived as a young teacher at the Lycee francais, I earnestly hope that its forthcoming accession will consolidate the area of stability that the Single European Market represents.

Concrete facts, however, oblige me to refer there to the case of Grundig, a firm in the Philips group that manufactures television sets in Nuremberg and Vienna as well as at Creutzwald in Lorraine.

The firm's board of directors is thinking of closing down its factory in Creutzwald, which employs 900 people, a majority of whom are women, and moving it to Vienna, apparently because your country is offering exceptional financial incentives, with perhaps a possibility of cheap sub-contracting in neighbouring countries.

Mr Chancellor, I should like you to reassure me on this point, by plainly stating your refusal to attract firms by questionable means, as well as your intention to abide by the rules of fair competition between the countries that make up the Single European Market.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Sir, the Grundig factory established a few years ago in Vienna produces television sets. It was built at the time without any financial or other assistance from the Austrian Federal Government or institutions close to it. At that time the city of Vienna gave a grant.

A co-operation project is now being discussed between Grundig and Philips, which does not however involve the production of television sets but the development and production of video recorders. No decision has yet been taken to assist this project with funds from the Austrian Federal Government. We have not been asked to take any decision on this.

In principle, of course, if assistance is granted this will be done in conformity with the rules of the European Community. However, as I said, this has not been under discussion up to now. I should like to assure you, Sir, that if it comes to this we shall certainly not infringe European Community rules, because we very much appreciate your concern, not least because of our own experience, since the freetrade agreement which the European Community has concluded with four Visegrad states has jeopardised 10 000 jobs in the Austrian textile industry. We must now make great efforts to keep this risk to jobs within acceptable limits and keep the damage to a minimum, or develop other solutions or other initiatives.

We have asked our Minister for Trade to negotiate with the European Community on whether certain arrangements can be made to alleviate the harmful effects on our textile industry of the free-trade agreement with our neighbours. We have so far not been successful in Brussels. These problems can really only been resolved when Austria is a member of the European Community.

So you see, the situation with the Grundig factory you mentioned is a very serious, and certainly very regrettable, matter. I say to you once again: we appreciate your concern very much, but this issue is certainly not unique.

Mr REDDEMANN (Germany) (translation)

Thank you, Mr President. Chancellor, two years ago you and your Government pressed for the creation of a CSCE Assembly. You know that we were thinking of a different basis for this than that which has emerged. We should have liked the CSCE Assembly to be constituted on the basis of the Assembly of the Council of Europe, in a similar way to OECD.

After the two meetings in Budapest and Madrid we have actually become more convinced that it would be better to extend the Council of Europe in the future as the basis for the CSCE Assembly.

I should therefore like to ask you whether you and your Government, in collaboration with the Austrian National Assembly and, if necessary, with this Assembly, could assist in shaping the CSCE Assembly in such a way that the resources of this Assembly – both intellectual and organisational – may be more closely integrated with the CSCE Assembly, also for the benefit of the other members of the latter assembly.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Sir, I share this view, only I fear that the horse has already bolted.

Mr REDDEMANN (translation)

I just wanted to ask whether we cannot get on a new horse.

Mr JUNG (France) (translation)

Thank you for your address, Chancellor.

We shall be pleased if Austria becomes a member of the European Community. However, you will appreciate that those members of this Assembly who are familiar with the major contributions of your country and your representatives in the Council of Europe are asking themselves the question: will this be the case in the future?

Are you prepared, Chancellor, to call on all the members of the Council of Europe to give their support to the financial consequences of enlargement?

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

The answer, Sir, is “yes”.

Mr JUNG (translation)

I am pleased, Chancellor, and hope that you will be successful, so that the financial problems of the Council of Europe will improve.

Mr BORG (Malta)

According to the opinion of the European Commission on Austria's application to join the European Community, your country's permanent neutrality was, rightly, not considered an insurmountable problem. What is your government's position on you country's neutrality in relation to the development of a future common European foreign and security policy?

Secondly, what do you consider to be the role of relatively small states in the north, centre and south of the continent within a future European Union?

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

First, in principle, I repeat and emphasise the fact that Austria has frequently expressed the view that our approach to the European Community is 100% based on the Maastricht Treaty, on the Treaty of Rome and on acquis communautaires and the like. That is very important to stress. We wish to approach the Community – and, finally, to get into it – as a member on the basis of the full duties and rights of a member of the Community.

Secondly, European integration should not necessarily be limited to the set-up of the institutional framework with which we are familiar today. It is the declared will of many of us who subscribe to the principal idea of European integration that we look at it as a dynamic development rather than as a status quo. Of course, that will lead us and those who succeed us in office to give a good deal of thought and work to expanding not only the spirit but the institutional framework of European integration. Of course, we shall not necessarily rely solely on the framework that we have today.

Mr LOPEZ HENARES (Spain) (interpretation)

referred to the sad situation in the former Yugoslavia and the trampling of human rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Because of the lack of a common defence and foreign policy, the actions of European institutions had been inadequate. He asked if Austria would seek to defend its permanent neutrality when it joined the European Community.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Sir, in giving its support in principle to the contents of the Treaty of Maastricht, the Austrian Federal Government stated that it also wishes to collaborate on the establishment of a common system of security in Europe. The question of Austrian neutrality will, undoubtedly, arise here.

We have established our negotiating philosophy as follows: we think – and we have not made a secret of this, everyone knows that – we shall take as the starting-point of our negotiations the status quo, our current position, and we also hold the view that if a collective European security system is geared to taking action against peace-violaters and aggressors, participation in such a collective European security system does not involve the question of neutrality. In other words, a neutral state may participate in such a system without departing from its neutrality.

This is no academic argument, we practise this with sensible modifications as a member of the United Nations. 1955 was the year in which Austria both declared its neutrality and accepted its membership of the United Nations. We did this at the time subject to the proviso, and in the knowledge, that whenever we are called upon, for example because of a Security Council resolution, to participate in an operation of collective security, our neutrality is not affected – and we participate. A practical example of this could be seen in Austria's involvement in various measures taken by the Allies in the Gulf war.

Mr BONDEVIK (Norway)

My question, which was based on European integration, Austria's application for membership of the Community and political union, has already been answered. However, Mr Vranitzky mentioned the United Nations and new membership of it. That prompts me to say that ambitions of political union go further than decisions that are taken in the United Nations. Does Mr Vranitzky see any obstacles and problems stemming from the full participation of a neutral and non-aligned country in terms of political union, with common foreign and, possibly, security policies?

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

It is fair to say that political union is related to yielding, in some way, a member state's sovereignty. In other words, a country gives up part of its sovereignty to join a political union. That is not necessarily limited or restricted to security and defence. It applies also to courts of justice and law-making, for example. In having applied for membership, Austria has carefully checked these matters. We start with the philosophy that joining the European Community will mean yielding some of our sovereign rights and claiming some rights from the Community to enable us to tackle the problems with which we shall have to deal, such as international traffic.

Mr KONIG (Austria) (translation)

Chancellor, Austria has taken in a particularly large share of refugees from the former Yugoslavia and there has been great willingness in the population to help. Our small country's capacity to absorb these people is, however, limited. We shall have a debate this afternoon on the refugee problem from the point of view of Yugoslavia's successor states and the events taking place there.

I should like to ask you to tell the Assembly how you assess the state of the efforts by the international community to show solidarity and provide assistance.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

I can only assess the current state based on the recent past. The experience of the recent past shows quite clearly that most countries are facing a not inconsiderable refugee problem, some to a greater, some to a lesser extent.

Last year, and today too, we had to cope with a large number of war refugees who were suffering particularly serious distress. We have always turned to other European countries, and we shall continue to do so, in order to work with them, especially on the problem of improving the situation and the prospects of war refugees. I believe we still have some scope to improve and extend this co-operation.

Mr FRANCK (Sweden)

Given your experience of refugee politics, Mr Vranitzky, what do you think should be done to introduce more humane and generous policies for refugees in Europe? Secondly, how do you propose to tackle the problem of increasing numbers of clandestine refugees and migrants? Thirdly, what do you suggest in the short term to fight the new fascism and racism?

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Sir, I fear that probably no one will be able to offer a neat solution to this very urgent question. I think that, in particular, international co-operation could, and should, be improved in those areas where there is an unequal distribution of burdens, that is where some countries bear a very great burden and other countries, which may not lie in the path of the large flows of refugees and whose people do not live there, could do more. I believe that this will have to be the subject of further international discussions, but the pressure of time is obvious.

On the second question, the flow of illegal immigrants, I would say from the experience of my country that the number of such people is relatively high. The number of people left to an uncertain fate after being brought in by racketeers and others engaged in shady activities is rising. We have amended the law in our country by making it more stringent. We have concluded agreements with most of our neighbours or other European countries to send people back who come to us by circumventing existing legislation. It is obviously inevitable that in this situation the amount of illicit work done will increase. We are therefore trying to combat this illicit work in our country by punishing people and excluding employers who take on illegal workers from being awarded public contracts, or by imposing other sanctions on them. This is an especially problematic matter in a recession, because many employers regard the taking on of much cheaper illegal labour as an advantage when it comes to costing their products.

I come to your third question, namely how we are coping politically with the actions of right-wing extremists and other comparable excesses. We have also adapted the legislation in our country. When people are found who can be proved guilty of, for example, re-engaging in national-socialist activities, the courts act swiftly and pass severe sentences. However, I see the involvement of the courts, the imposition of proper sentences and the passing of stricter laws as only part of the solution. The other part, probably the more important part – I referred to this in my speech – is, in reality, to have a secure job, a secure income, social security, and personal and cultural security. These really provide the guarantee that only small numbers of people will become susceptible to these extreme right-wing deviations and excesses.

I believe that one can solve part of the problem by means of the legal system, but certainly only part, and probably only a small part. The larger part must be solved by means of a far-sighted economic structure and social policy.


Did I understand you correctly, Mr Vranitzky? Did you mean that too restrictive and punitive a policy on refugee problems could be counter-productive? That is an important question. In your country and mine we have tried to pursue a more humane and generous policy on refugees, whereas others have a very restrictive policy. A restrictive and punitive policy is counter-productive and could be against what we really want. I should like your answer to that question.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

You have certainly addressed the heart of the problem. We must doubtless steer a middle course. On the one hand, we need a properly functioning legal system, with the due application of the law, and, on the other hand, we have a task to fulfil with respect to political and social life, a task which consists in arranging for the ethnic groups which have now come together to co-exist and to improve that co-existence, and here the most important aspect is that no one should feel at a disadvantage. You see, if one group, for example the citizens of the country, is shown preference, one is accused of inhumanity. If the impression is created that those who have come into the country are given preference, the domestic population will withhold their political allegiance. It is precisely this political skill that is necessary – to dispense one's favours in such as way as to strike a happy medium, so that this is more or less accepted by both sides.

No measuring instrument is available to ensure that this act of political skill is successful from the outset. One can only examine afterwards whether the middle course chosen has led to the desired objective. So I would say that the limits of a restrictive policy lie along this narrow path. Whether this golden mean has been found or not will ultimately be left to the political judgment of the population of the country.

Mrs BAARVELD-SCHLAMAN (Netherlands) (interpretation)

asked what investigations would be taking place in Austria in respect of allegations of intimidation of individuals in relation to the recent referendum question.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

This is an example of something that often occurs in politics, namely that people assume that a subjective opinion is objective fact. If the politician you mentioned has complained about intimidation or, as he said, psychological terror has been exercised, that is his subjective assessment. The authorities responsible have looked into each of these cases complained about and no such serious allegation has been proven. As you can imagine, in the course of the referendum, which lasted from one Monday to the next, there were one or two hitches, which were sorted out immediately.

This, and no other way, is how this matter is to be judged.

Mr KARAKAS (Turkey) (translation)

Chancellor, as we all know, the conference on Bosnia ended in failure. In Bosnia, people continue to shoot, kill, rape and torture.

I should like to hear from you what new and effective initiatives we can take to ensure that human rights and peace are restored as quickly as possible in Bosnia.

Thank you very much.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

It is not easy, Sir, to think of new initiatives or to take new initiatives since a number of very serious efforts have been made to bring about an end to this war.

I must say to you that I am not in a position to present a precise initiative to you here which I might assume would meet with the approval of all those dealing with this matter, both inside and outside the former Yugoslavia.

I should like to say that it is not my job to defend the efforts of the international community, but one thing can be said objectively: the political leaders of the various groups in the former Yugoslavia do not demonstrate a marked willingness to co-operate with respect to the proposals made to them at the international level.

Regarding at least those problems to be resolved in the short term, there is probably – at any rate for the foreseeable future – no other task, and no more important and urgent task, than to intensify humanitarian aid in every conceivable place, and to intensify it quickly. The winter will last for quite a bit longer and there is immense suffering, poverty and hunger among many of those affected. Access to the places to which help must be given is limited and – I am sure that representatives of other countries know this just as well as I do – the lorries despatched, or other aid deliveries, keep being shot at, UN blue helmets also come under fire, the various groups who block the roads demand a third of a lorry's load, as a road toll, as it were, if the lorry is to drive on. The people from the aid organisations are not prepared to pay this toll charged by highway robbers, which prevents them from driving through to help the needy. Very unorthodox bargains are therefore struck. Moreover, it is a fact that, in the various camps containing refugees from the war and other refugees, people are not prepared to help them to return to their towns and villages even though there is no more fighting going on there.

So, all in all, humanitarian aid in every conceivable form continues to be on the agenda and must be provided in increasing amounts.

Mr PAHTAS (Greece) (translation)

Mr Chancellor, your country, Austria, lies in the heart of our continent and has applied for membership of the European Community.

Rapid and easy transport and communication across your country are essential to the Single European Market and to economic and social collaboration between the members of the European Community.

What practical steps do you intend to take to support and achieve these objectives, irrespective of the means required?

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Because of its geographical position, to which you referred, Austria is one of those countries which enjoys the “privilege” of having vehicles travel though it along every conceivable north-south route as well as every conceivable east-west route.

As we become ever more successful in removing national frontiers and increasing the amount of goods transported, the volume of traffic increases, and with it the burden on the environment. We have decided to initiate a comprehensive investment programme – like our Swiss neighbours – by developing the main railways routes. Owing to the topography of our country you can imagine how considerable and far-reaching these investments are and how they affect us financially. In addition, they will not provide relief immediately but only in a number of years.

For this reason, we have signed an agreement with the European Community to the effect that the transit of goods by road is subject to certain closely defined limits, limits which are not only based on quantitative measures but also on a progressive reduction in air pollution in the areas concerned.

We do not, of course, only have every interest in this agreement being extended in the course of the negotiations on Austria's membership of the European Community but assume that this will be the case – we have also received sufficient promises from the EC that it will be maintained after we have joined. We are co-operating with our neighbours at various levels and on various bases, and part of this co-operation is the transfer to railway of a certain amount of the goods in transit. We have also received a number of signals from some EC countries to the effect that they find this way of limiting goods traffic to protect the environment interesting and are themselves considering introducing such measures in their own countries.

Mr de PUIG (Spain) (interpretation)

asked for Mr Vranitzky's analysis of the recent petition to reject immigrants.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

The petition to which you referred was brought forward by the leader of the Liberal Party in Austria, who expressed the opinion that the result would be between 600 000 and one million votes. The politician to whom you are referring said that it would be a satisfying result for him if the result corresponded to the number of votes cast for the Liberal Party at the last general election. That did not happen. At the last general election that party received some 700 000 votes, while the final result on the petition, announced the day before yesterday, was 417 000. The Liberal Party's last statement was that 500 000 votes would be a successful outcome. Therefore, the figure of 417 000 fell short of the forecast made to the public. Apart from the Liberal Party, all the other political parties represented in the Austrian Parliament were against the petition, as were the churches, the trade unions, various associations of entrepreneurs and many others. It was a broad front of opinion against that sort of petition to deal with a sensitive problem in relation to human beings.

So they are more or less the underlying factors of the political set-up. Of course, within a short time the Austrian people have been faced with a radical increase in the number of people coming to Austria from abroad. We must at least have some understanding of the fact that Austrians are becoming apprehensive about those people as regards jobs, living in common neighbourhoods and their effect on elementary schools and so on. That is why the Federal Government introduced legislation in the Austrian Parliament long before the question of a petition arose. The protagonists of the petition apparently said that that was not enough, but we did not want to go further with any restrictions. Therefore, they decided to have the petition.

As I said earlier, having a good legal framework is one thing but one must increase the political measures with political work. We must persuade and convince Austrians as well as foreigners that there are more ways of living together, co-operating and co-existing, than just by dealing with matters through the courts and the police. That is the way we have to go and we were especially encouraged by the results of the petition.

Mr KIRATLIOGLU (Turkey) (translation)

Mr President, Chancellor, as you know, terrorist organisations are causing disturbance and doing considerable damage all over the world. There is such a terrorist organisation in Turkey, the so-called PKK. This terrorist organisation is also to be found in a number of European countries, such as France, Germany, and also Austria.

As far as I know, Austria is a democratic state subject to the rule of law. I spent my student days there. This terrorist organisation, the PKK, is extremely dangerous, and Interpol has found out that it also carries out drug-smuggling operations. They also have a branch in Austria.

What are you thinking of doing to stop the activities of this terrorist organisation? What measures will you take? That is my question.

Mr Vranitzky, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria (translation)

Sir, I absolutely reject and condemn any form of terrorism, just like, I am sure, everyone present here in this Assembly. If such activities are confirmed in Austria and Austrian laws are broken, it goes without saying that the authorities responsible will take action. This has been the case in the past with various activities and will remain so in the future.


Thank you very much, Mr Vranitzky. We have gone slightly over the time-limit for this morning's programme but that has made it possible for all members to put their questions. Thank you very much, Mr Vranitzky, for the clear and open way in which you answered all of them. (Applause).