European Union

   An economic, and increasingly political, organization of 15 European states. Austria gained admission in 1995. The administrative headquarters of the EU are in Brussels. The EU has developed as a fusion of international organizations that arose after World War II. Their general purpose was to promote the economic recovery of Europe and to foster interstate ties that would discourage further wars among them. The first of these ties was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC, 1952), which turned into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958. In 1967, the European Atomic Community was incorporated into the EEC, which was then called the European Community (EC). In 1987, the EC declared European political unity to be a central goal and set up a mechanism for regular conferences of European heads of government. An agreement signed in Maestricht in 1993 established a timetable for both the political and economic integration of the continent.
   In 1994, 66 percent of all Austrians participating in a referendum supported their country’s membership in the EU. Behind this vote lay some complex and delicate problems. The Soviet Union had accepted the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 only on the condition of Austria’s perpetual neutrality. What the Russians wanted most to prevent was any kind of formal linkage of Austria and Germany. The Russians wanted to keep Austria out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well, particularly when by 1954 West Germany had been invited to join that alliance.
   Julius Raab, the first chancellor of a sovereign Austria following the signing of the State Treaty, argued that military neutrality did not affect Austria’s economic and cultural relations with foreign countries. In 1956, Austria entered into a customs agreement with the ECSC, and there was some discussion of outright membership. However, the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in the fall of that year made Austrian politicians a great deal more cautious. Their reservations seemed even more justifiable when the Soviets moved forces into Czechoslovakia in 1968 to put an end to the liberal Prague Spring. Both Kurt Waldheim, as Austrian foreign minister in the late 1960s, and Bruno Kreisky pursued very active foreign policies. However, their focus was largely on regions of the world where Austria was not likely to be called upon to engage itself militarily.
   By the late 1970s, the reformist wing of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) began calling for a stronger Austrian presence in the economic mainstream of Western Europe. Austrian profits from trade with the Soviet bloc and the developing world were now lagging behind the revenues generated by commerce with the West; a rethinking of import–export relationships seemed warranted. Austria had participated in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) since 1960, but the most important member of that organization, Great Britain, had applied for membership in the EC the following year. Although French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed that, the EC and its successors were clearly the more dynamic of the two economic groupings of noncommunist Europe. By 1977, Austrian industrial goods could enter the EC duty-free. The Soviet Union offered no serious objections.
   The 1980s seriously altered the political-economic landscape both of the EC and of Austria’s relations with it. Faced with global marketing challenges from both the United States and Japan, the EC resolved to tie itself together more closely monetarily and politically to remain economically competitive. Its Single Europe Act, in force after 1 July 1987, called for the development of a common foreign policy for member states.
   Debate on Austria’s relationship with the EC had long fallen along political lines, the Socialist Party of Austria (SPÖ) taking a generally minimalist approach, the more entrepreneur-friendly ÖVP arguing for far tighter integration. In 1986, however, with another Grand Coalition (SPÖ—ÖVP) governing Austria, the two parties substantially narrowed their differences. Alois Mock, a longtime supporter of Austrian participation in the EC, was foreign minister and vice-chancellor, thus giving these views a strong advocate within the regime. At first Austria was inclined toward greater cooperation with the EC. Nor, as Chancellor Franz Vranitzky made clear, did it want to abandon its position in EFTA. After the EC announced early in 1989 that only full members would have decision-making powers in its councils and that real political and military integration was part of their final plan, Austria’s prospects for membership looked dim. However, the stagnation of the Austrian economy in the 1980s and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which began in 1989, encouraged the Vranitzky government to press on for EC membership. Public opinion, however, remained skeptical. At the end of 1988, a poll showed that opposition was growing. The environmentally oriented Green Party, the Communists, pacifists, farmers frightened by the prospect of regulation from Brussels, and some Socialist politicians spoke out against the arrangement. The letter of application for membership in the EC, which Foreign Minister Mock submitted on 17 July 1989 to Roland Dumas, his French counterpart, listed several items covering domestic environmental and social matters that Austria wanted to set as conditions for its participation. Above all, it wished to have its neutral status recognized.
   Once again, the EC was not enthusiastic. The Soviet Union, too, expressed its concern about the possible breach of the neutrality agreement. By 1990, with the Soviet Union fast becoming a part of history, Austria was ready to commit itself to the Single European Act, including participation in the formulation of foreign and security policies. In 1993, the EC declared its willingness to receive an Austrian application for membership. Two years later, acceptance came.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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