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The Austrian debate on Turkey - pre-2004

Foto: SPĂ– / Pertramer
Party poster with SPÖ-leader Alfred Gusenbauer. Photo: SPÖ

It is worth recalling that, until spring 2004, the positions of both major parties on Turkey remained open. In December 1999, outgoing SPO chancellor Viktor Klima had supported the EU Helsinki Council's decision to grant Turkey candidate status. Two days later, foreign minister Wolfgang Schussel told the Austrian press that "the candidate status of Turkey is welcomed because closer relations of the European Union with Turkey enhance the stability and security of Europe." In 2002, the SPO's Caspar Einem praised the Copenhagen Council's decision on Turkey.

"We should accept that Turkey is now on its way towards Europe. We have already lost a lot of chances in our neighbouring countries, because we (Austrians), once it came to the crunch, turned into fearful sceptics rather than friends… We should do it better this time. Let's develop a special and close partnership with Turkey. This will also help once Turkey has joined the EU."

Since the Helsinki summit in December 1999, when Turkey was granted candidate status, two different Austrian chancellors, two heads of state and three foreign ministers have supported EU decisions on Turkey (Helsinki 1999, Copenhagen 2002, Brussels 2004, Luxemburg 2005). In 2002, chancellor Schussel stated before the Copenhagen summit that:

"the (European) Council should not overrule the Commission out of political reasons… One should stick to the existing procedure, with the Commission regularly presenting progress reports and allowing for judgment whether the political criteria were fulfilled according to objective status reports… The principal question whether Turkey shall become an EU member was already decided upon, since that country had been granted candidate status."

On 4 May 2004 Die Presse wrote that, in Austria, all the main parties were internally divided over Turkey. According to a Hürriyet article from 28 June 2004, even SPO leader Alfred Gusenbauer sent supportive signals to Austrian Turks:

"Gusenbauer says the SPO has always supported Turkish EU accession… While he still thinks the EU is not ready at this point, this would be no obstacle to start negotiations which would only lead to membership in ten years."

Until June 2005, the FPO's Jorg Haider also argued in favour of Turkish accession. For this he was attacked by his own party, who dismissed Haider's view as an "isolated voice."

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