mw. On 15 May 1955, Austria became a sovereign state with the “State Treaty concerning the Restoration of an Independent and Democratic Austria”. On 26 October 1955, the National Council passed the “Federal Constitutional Law on the Neutrality of Austria” (Neutrality Law), thus subjecting the country to the 1907 Hague Convention (right to inviolability of territory; duty not to support any party, supply or finance arms in the event of war).1 However, Austria did not agree to perpetual neutrality along the lines of Switzerland only because the Allies demanded it. Rather, the population stood behind the principle of neutrality then and still does today. This is evidenced by the high level of support for neutrality among the population and politicians across the party spectrum.
Unlike Switzerland, Austria has been a member of the EU since 1995 and therefore cannot opt out of economic sanctions imposed by the Union. By joining the EU, Austria has also declared its willingness to participate in the common foreign and security policy. But in the Ukraine war, Austria adheres to the law of neutrality and does not supply war material, just like neutral Ireland.
Only 14 per cent of the Austrian population are in favour of joining NATO!
While Sweden and Finland are considering joining NATO, the Austrians remain undeterred in their neutrality: In a survey conducted at the beginning of May2, only 14 per cent of those questioned were in favour of joining NATO, 75 per cent explicitly rejected it. In another survey of March 2022 about the importance of neutrality, “a total of 91 per cent of respondents stated that Austria’s neutrality was important to them, even against the background of the Russia-Ukraine war. Only [...] 6 per cent, on the other hand, did not consider it important”.3
More cooperation of the EU member states in security and defence policy is advocated by 83 per cent of the respondents, but only 37 per cent want Austria to participate in an EU defence alliance.4
From these survey results, one can conclude that the majority of the population would rather support the strengthening of an independent European security policy outside NATO, with a willingness to cooperate but not to join an EU army. In this way, neutrality can be preserved as much as possible within the EU.
Comparison with the Swiss population
According to a poll conducted by sotomo in the SonntagsBlick in April, 35 per cent of respondents answered “yes” to the question: “Should Switzerland cooperate more closely with the NATO defence alliance?” while 21 per cent answered “rather yes”. However, “cooperate more closely” is a very unclear formulation. Wisely, there was no mention of joining NATO - apparently “Blick” wanted to avoid the expected resounding “no”. On the question “Should Switzerland supply weapons to Ukraine?”, the Swiss clearly showed that they want to stick to neutrality: 56 per cent answered no, 10 per cent rather no, which is a two-thirds majority.5
Politicians take a stand: “Austria’s neutrality is part of our national identity”
While Swiss Federal Councillors and parliamentarians are lamentably divided on the future direction of their own security policy, Austria’s top politicians across the party landscape are clearly in favour of maintaining neutrality.
After Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership, the question of whether neutrality is still the best security instrument for Austria was also raised in Austria.
1 Republic of Austria, Parliament. “Was macht die österreichische Neutralität aus?” (What constitutes Austrian neutrality?) Fachinfos of 21 March 2022
2 The survey was conducted by the Institute for Demoscopy & Data Analysis (IFDD) on behalf of the Austria Press Agency APA.
3 Mohr, Martin. “Wichtigkeit der Neutralität in Österreich 2022» (Importance of neutrality in Austria 2022). In: statista, 14 March 2022.
4 “Ukraine-Krieg: Österreicherinnen und Österreicher laut Umfrage gegen Nato-Beitritt” (Ukraine war: Austrians against Nato accession according to survey). In: Der Standard of 6 May 2022 (APA).
5 Rafi, Reza. “So denkt die Schweiz über Krieg und Neutralität. Das Volk will aufrüsten” (This is how Switzerland thinks aboat war and neutrality. The people want to arm). In: SonntagsBlick of 17 April 2022
6 “Schallenberg bestätigt erneut Österreichs Neutralität” (Schallenberg reaffirms Austria’s neutrality). News ORF of 21 May 2022
7 “Neutralität – Frage eines NATO-Beitritts stellt sich für die Grünen nicht.” (Neutrality - Question of joining NATO does not arise for the Greens) In: Wiener Zeitung Online of 18 May 2022 (apa).
8 “Es braucht auch keine Modifizierung der Neutralität” (There is also no need to modify neutrality). In: Neue Freie Zeitung of 14 March 2022
9 “Rendi-Wagner bei Scholz: Diplomatie im Ukraine-Krieg alternativlos” (Rendi-Wagner at Scholz: No alternative to diplomacy in the Ukraine war). SPÖ of 18 May 2022 (www.spoe.at/2022/05/18)"
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