cc. Three years ago, a so-called registration week of the Austrian EU-exit referendum took place. In order to have a referendum be dealt with parliament, at least 100,000 Austrian citizens had to sign up in person at their local councils, thus expressing their wish that a legally binding referendum about the question whether Austria should leave the EU was to be carried out. Despite these hurdles and a total media boycott, the initiative reached sensational 261,000 signatures, causing an earthquake in Austria.Nevertheless, parliament did not follow this qualified call of the citizens. Current Concerns talked to Inge Rauscher of “Initiative Heimat und Umwelt”, one of the main initiators of the EU-exit referendum.
Current Concerns: Ms Rauscher, you were instrumental in reaching a sensational 261,000 signatures in the 2015 EU referendum. How did you manage that without the support of the media, and what does it mean for Austria in retrospect?
Inge Rauscher: It was first and foremost an achievement of the grassroots movement and the result of several years of information and education work by the regularly published journal of the “Initiative Heimat und Umwelt”, the Wegwarte, and the nonpartisan EU exit committee, many hundreds of information rallies and stalls at public open spaces all over Austria for the purpose of discussions between passers-by and our activists; many letters to the editor in the media, a lot of personal work handing out fact sheets to thousands of citizens and their demonstrated willingness to financially enable the necessary large-scale printruns.
What are the most important reasons for leaving the EU in Austria?
There are many, of which I can only list a few here. The most important thing for us as the proponents of the referendum was and is the loss of self-determination. Decisions for citizens living here can be made better in Austria itself than in «Brussels». Democracy always requires proximity and manageability. It is no coincidence that the EU Commissioners, who have the sole right to propose laws, are not elected and that the so-called EU Parliament has no legislative power. In the EU, there is hardly anything to decide even for the national parliaments, and certainly not the state peoples - hence the de facto exclusion of direct democracy. The member states will soon be deprived of budgetary authority by appointing a finance minister for the entire EU.
There is no important area that has improved by joining the EU 23 years ago, but many have deteriorated.
The explicitly permanent neutrality enshrined in the Austrian Federal Constitution is constantly violated by EU membership. One has to keep in mind that 25 of the (still) 28 members are Nato members at the same time. Last year Chancellor Kurz signed the Pesco Agreement (Permanent Structured Cooperation), the so-called permanent, structured military cooperation of the EU states. How can a neutral country shape peace by joining an army that is in harmony with the Nato offensive alliance?
The problems of mass immigration are also related to the EU. Their credo of “open borders” has actually made it possible in the first place, right up to the associated crime of today. In December, the so-called “Marrakech Declaration” will be formally signed in Morocco, by 57 states from the EU and African “partner countries” committing themselves, after several years of negotiation, «to promoting a balanced approach to migration, diaspora and the development of companies in the countries of origin, transit and destination”. Independent observers see this agreement as another door opener for mass migration from Africa to the EU. While the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already agreed to this treaty, the Hungarian Foreign Minister justifies his government’s rejection by pointing out that the Marrakech Declaration would see “migration as a necessary and positive phenomenon” and that it must be assumed that in the scope of this “Rabat process” a new wave of migration would arise..
Primarily the groups benefit from the EU and not the citizens. Since Austria has joined the EU in 1995, there has been no significant increase in net wages (gross wages minus inflation rate), while share prices have risen significantly since then: the ATX from just under 1,000 points in January 1995 up to at least 3,400 points in July 2018 – an increase of around 240 %. In the case of the DAX, this development was even more pronounced in the same period due to the larger group structures – from around 2,000 points to around 12 800 points – an increase of around 540 %. Obviously, the EU is a redistribution machine from bottom to top in the first place!
The single currency, the euro, has resulted in an enormous loss of purchasing power and enormous inflation in our country. Every citizen can feel this in his wallet. And that has to do with the fact that weaker economies such as Italy, Spain or Portugal can no longer devalue as a result of the euro and have run into major problems. Under the EU Treaty, stronger economies such as Austria had to be liable for the debts of other countries. In addition, Austria pays far more into the EU every year than it gets back. The entire path has led to an impoverishment of our population and to a widening gap between rich and poor. The EU is anything but an economic success story. The number of farmers who had to give up has increased massively, Austria has lost large parts of its industrial production, the national debt amounts to 83% of the gross domestic product, and there are currently about 350,000 unemployed with only about 50,000 vacancies.
According to surveys, about one third of Austrians are in favour of Austria leaving the EU, i.e. an “Öxit”, but the entire mainstream media and parliamentary parties are against it. How can this discrepancy be explained?
The wishes of informed citizens are not the ones of the official circles, since they represent completely different (lobby) interests and want to be disturbed as little as possible. In addition, “Brussels” awards many tempting positions, advertisements and other privileges at our expense with which politicians and journalists can be “lured”. They are sponsored by many financially strong so-called “think tanks” behind the scenes and by NGOs . The EU bodies are outposts of the agenda of the centralist “world state” to undermine the (still) functioning nation states, which are supposed to serve the welfare of the peoples and states.
In the federal presidential election you supported Norbert Hofer of the FPÖ and afterwards you supported the FPÖ in the national elections. What were your reasons for that support? And why did you then distance yourself from the FPÖ?
The main reasons for the support was the vehement support for the introduction of direct democracy according to the Swiss model, decided by the federal party conference of the FPÖ with 100 percent approval and declared to be an absolute condition of coalition. Also the “no” vote to the ruinous CETA trade agreement between the EU and Canada (and thus indirectly with the USA) or at least a ratification of it only after a referendum and the “no” to the further centralism of the EU, etc. All this was thrown overboard and a government pact was signed which decided the exact opposite. The CETA agreement has since been ratified by parliament with the votes of the ÖVP and FPÖ, another free trade agreement between the EU and Singapore has been signed by infrastructure minister and government coordinator Norbert Hofer. With this agreement tribunal of trusts will have precedence over state jurisdiction as a parallel justice if social or environmental laws will affect the profit interests of trusts. And instead of the promised direct democracy according to the Swiss model, from 2021 on – according to the governmental programme – the entire EU law is to be completely withdrawn from the population’s right to have a say, even though more than 80 % of all laws applicable to Austria are already prescribed by “Brussels”. Moreover, the constitution and international treaties should also be excluded from any direct democracy, and the question of EU membership itself (retention or withdrawal) should never be brought forward to the people again. And thus, of course, further support of the FPÖ was completely impossible for us.
What role would you wish Austria to play in Europe?
As a sovereign small state in the centre of Europe, it should contribute to balance and peace through active and lived neutrality, which requires an independent foreign policy. This includes a healthy equidistance to all major power blocs and ongoing efforts to strengthen international law and comply with it. Rejection of fantasies of Great Power, but determined support for the vital needs of the Republic of Austria at all levels – keywords: transit traffic, rural agriculture, local supply by small and medium-sized enterprises, cultural identity. In terms of trade policy, Austria should rejoin EFTA, of which we used to be a member for 36 years. Our main focus should be on an active neighbourhood policy with all the states surrounding us.
Is a referendum on leaving the EU still possible, and could it be successful?
The National Council can decide on such a referendum at any time. With the “direct-democracy-prevention-package” planned by the current government for 2021, the people „only“ are to be denied to initiate a referendum themselves. But this package could also be abolished at any time by another government or its majority in parliament. And of course such a referendum can be a success; even in the Brexit referendum nobody had expected such a result.
What would happen if a majority in Austria voted in favour of leaving the EU?
Then our country would have the opportunity again to make policy primarily for the benefit of its own citizens. The annual, horrendous EU membership fees would be dropped; Austria would be able to reintroduce its own national currency instead of the transfer currency euro and would not have to co-finance debt liability packages for other EU states as through the ESM; membership of the European Atomic Energy Community Euratom would be dropped, etc. Austria would also no longer have to support all the steps underway towards participation in a NATO-compatible EU army such as the Pesco Agreement and could, in general, restore freedom and self-determination and thus also self-respect instead of submission.
Thank you very much, Mrs Rauscher. •
(Translation Current Concerns)
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