AUF1: What is the group “Neutral Free Austria” and what are your goals?
Daniel Jenny: The “Neutral Free Austria” (NFÖ) sees itself as a political initiative (with the legal status of a political party) for political awareness raising and education. It was founded in March 2003 and we celebrate our 20th birthday in a month’s time.
As the name suggests, neutrality is a precious treasure to us.
We want to contribute to our government acting as a mediator in the Ukraine conflict instead of simply implementing directives from Brussels.
NFÖ has also launched the Parliamentary Citizens’ Initiative “Stop the Sanctions against Russia”. What exactly is demanded and how can one support the initiative?
The participation in the economic war against Russia with the weapon “sanctions” is to be strictly rejected.
The sanctions that have been imposed violate international law. Only the UN Security Council may impose sanctions. The USA has not complied with this for years, but this does not make the sanctions any more legal. If Austria supports the sanctions, it violates international law.
Unfortunately, Austria, together with the EU, supports many sanctions against countries, even against very poor countries like Afghanistan or Syria. But is starving a people actually a more humane means of violence than using weapons? And why do we expect our fellow human beings affected by hunger wars and job losses to still judge Austria as neutral if it participates in the sanctions?
With the sanctions against Russia, Western Europe is also harming itself. We demand an immediate end to the sanctions against Russia. On our website nfoe.at you can download the parliamentary citizens’ initiative sheet, sign it, preferably together with your neighbours, and send it back to us.
The Austrian government unilaterally supports Ukraine rhetorically, with the delivery of equipment for the army, with money for weapons and with permission for troop transports. Although all this is actually forbidden. Given these circumstances, what is your view of the democratic system in Austria?
You raise the question of how the government deals with neutrality.
Austrian neutrality, as it was decided in 1955 and to which we owe our freedom and sovereignty and also our peace, is very essential for our country. Clever, forward-looking politicians of good character (e.g., Leopold Figl, Julius Raab, Bruno Kreisky) seized the opportunity and the negotiations. They had also recognised the value of neutrality, which has proved to be the best possible peace-keeping instrument, provided that neutrality is lived credibly.
Unfortunately, this valuable peace instrument is being interpreted, twisted, reinterpreted nowadays, even though we can see that the Ukraine conflict is escalating.
Individual personalities long for a “mission”, for visions and spectacular deeds. Certainly, neutrality restricts the government’s room for manoeuvre and foreign policy activities in a way that is annoying, even painful, for them. Neutrality hardly grants them heroic deeds and rarely glamorous international appearances. But it also gives the nation no room for the fascination with war, which we cannot rationally explain but must repeatedly state as a fact.
We expect our government to fully respect neutrality. Neutrality is a guarantee that the government will not drag the citizens into conflicts, which the citizens then have to spoon out and pay for from their purse or even with their lives.
The EU is also increasingly making itself a party to the war. The German Foreign Minister Baerbock has even already self-deprecatingly declared that “we” would allegedly wage a war against Russia. If an EU country were to really get involved in the war now, Austria would also have to join in because of the mutual assistance clause. Is EU membership compatible with Austrian neutrality?
Complete neutrality, i.e. also political and economic neutrality, is of course not compatible with the EU’s “Common Foreign and Security Policy”. Thus, Austria’s official application for EU membership before the referendum in 1994 contained a so-called “neutrality reservation”, i.e. Austria joined the EU “subject to its neutrality”. However, the EU never accepted this reservation of neutrality. It has never confirmed it, but it has not spoken out against it either. In the acute situation (i.e. now), Austria should definitely bring this “reservation of neutrality” into play and make it a public issue.
If complete neutrality and a waiver of sanctions are not possible because of the EU, we must find a way outside the EU.
Of course: Neutrality does not oblige us Austrians to keep our mouths shut, to be morally indifferent in the face of constant violations of international law. But it does oblige the state, the government and also the parliament to exercise restraint. Neutrality is the white spot in the world, a universally recognised place where the parties to a conflict can meet and talk to each other without weapons. As long as there are neutral states, peace has a chance. Every neutral state is a contribution to peace.
Our last Swiss guest, Stefan Rietiker, particularly emphasised that he, like Switzerland, would like to see armed neutrality. How do you see that for Austria, do we need a better federal army or even a new, proper militia system?
Yes, you are right: armed neutrality requires a federal army that can guarantee that no violence emanates from our territory and that takes the defence readiness of its own territory seriously.
Unfortunately, Austria is a member of the “Partnership for Peace” created by NATO.
Instead of using the funds to fulfil NATO requirements, it should be able to defend its own borders and protect its population. Here, too, the closeness between the EU and NATO is evident: 21 or in future 23 of the 27 EU states are NATO members.
The EU and NATO are showing themselves to be warmongers. As a sovereign state, we should distance ourselves from this and remain neutral.
The Austrian Federal Constitutional Law explicitly states that Austria “will defend neutrality with all means at her disposal”. Neutrality requires strength and firmness. Participation is more comfortable. The neutral state distrusts quick judgement and refuses to divide the world into simple good and evil. Peacemakers are needed.
Mr Jenny, thank you very much for your time and for this interview. •
of 21 February 2023
(Translation Current Concerns)
* In September 2022, Daniel Jenny took over the chairmanship of the initiative “Neutral Free Austria” (NFÖ for short), which is particularly committed to preserving Austrian neutrality.
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