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NEWS ROUNDUP 19 Jan 2018

Austria under international scrutiny for its populist politics

Christine Tragler recommended by Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria

In its annual report, Human Rights Watch criticizes Austria for its anti-immigration and anti-Muslim political agenda. According to the organization, instead of toning down the appeal of populism, the Austrian government ended up strengthening it.

Austria Smoke signals

Why this story matters:

The report points out to Poland or Hungary as examples of countries, where populist politics are on the rise and yet they are openly and actively counteracted. That is not the case in Austria, which the authors of the report mention in a predominantly negative tone.

Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, thus commented on the issue:

"In some European countries, such as Austria and the Netherlands, high profile politicians tried to keep up with the populists by adapting many of their nationalist slogans. They did it in hope to take the wind out of the populists’ sails but instead ended up bolstering their agenda in the media."

The report is predominantly critical of the ruling Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), a center-right group that have demonstrated decisive anti-immigration and anti-Muslim politics thus rendering the populist agenda mainstream. The report fails to mention the ÖVP leader and chancellor Sebastian Kurz, when it reads:

"They hoped that they would tone down the appeal of populists but have only reinforced their message."

The authors of the report believe that if, instead, the political leaders had taken a clear course against those who demonize minorities, attack human rights and undermine democratic institutions, they could have curbed the rise of populism.

Details from the story:

  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international non-governmental organization that aims to promote human rights through research and public relations.
  • In its annual report released on Thursday, HRW claim that "mainstream political parties in many EU countries continue to embrace elements of anti-immigration, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim political agenda."
  • One such example is Austria, where, at the time the report was written, the ÖVP and the FPÖ were conducting coalition negotiations.

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