In her doctoral dissertation Norm Consolidation in the European Union: The EU14-Austria Crisis in 2000, Rebecka Ulfgard, a political scientist at Växjö University, has studied the so-called Austria crisis of 2000. A political crisis erupted in the EU after Wolfgang Schüssel’s conservative ÖVP formed a coalition government with Jörg Haider’s extreme rightist FPÖ party. Fourteen EU countries felt that Austria was violating EU core values, and the Union decided to implement diplomatic sanctions against Austria. This decision triggered a crisis in the EU.
“I have studied five phases in the political crisis: emergence, implementation, crisis escalation, de-escalation, and the judicial and political consequences. One conclusion that can be drawn from my studies is that the capacity of the EU to cope with a crisis of this sort was good even in 2000 but that it was strengthened by the Austria crisis. One result of the crisis was that an independent commission was appointed to investigate how the observance of the EU code of values could be improved. This led to the re-formulation of the EU’s sanction article, Article 7. Now it is sufficient merely to suspect that a member country is about to violate the EU’s core values to direct sanctions,” says Rebecka Ulfgard.
But the re-formulated sanctions article has not been followed to any great extent. Since the 2000 Austria crisis, the governments of both Denmark and Italy have based their mandate on coalitions with xenophobic parties. In neither case did the other member states penalize them in any way.
“I reach the conclusion that above and beyond a satisfactory judicial framework, a strong political will must be in place for protests to take place. In regard to Austria it was also the case that the French and Belgian governments both exploited the situation for domestic policy purposes. At that time those two countries were having problems with extreme rightist movements themselves, and they used Austria as a deterrent to frighten their own voters. In other words, they exercised domestic politics in the foreign policy arena,” says Rebecka Ulfgard.
Title of dissertation: Norm Consolidation in the European Union: The EU14-Austria Crisis in 2000
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