The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), currently the most popular party in the country, is calling for a national referendum on sanctions on Russia and arm shipments to the embattled nation.
“We want to ask the population how they feel about the current sanctions policy against Russia and arms exports to Ukraine,” said MEP Harald Vilimsky, head of the Liberal delegation in the European Parliament on Monday. According to him, Europeans are not united behind the current arms exports, such as the recently agreed delivery of tanks to Ukraine, with some countries especially opposed to such a step.
He pointed to a survey from Euromedia which found that 60 percent of Italians spoke out against heavy weapons for Kyiv.
FPÖ has long argued for non-intervention and neutrality in the conflict. The party also argues that sanctions on Russia have been a tremendous burden for Austria’s economy and helped drive inflation higher.
The party, known for its anti-immigration stance, argues that the EU is becoming more deeply embedded in the war and that Austrian citizens should be able to decide for themselves whether Austria continues its overt support with weapons.
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“More and more citizens are doubting the escalation policy of the EU Commission and the European governments involved in it,” said Vilimsky. He also points out that Austria has a permanent position regarding neutrality and that the arms shipments are actually therefore unconstitutional.
“I immediately demand a referendum to ask the Austrian population about the continuation of the EU’s sanctions policy, Austria’s involvement in arms exports to Ukraine, and the federal government’s observance of permanent neutrality,” said the liberal MEP. “It must be the task of European politics and those responsible to do everything possible to end this cruel war and to campaign for peace talks.”
Other FPÖ politicians argue that the sanctions in Austria are making business planning impossible, with FPÖ economic spokesman Erwin Angerer saying:
“This year we are lucky that we have experienced a very mild winter so far, so the gas storage tanks are well filled. However, we do not know how electricity and gas prices will develop if Russian gas becomes scarce. Even by fighting the symptoms, we will not be able to protect European industry. The unspeakable sanctions against Russia make it impossible for companies and industry to plan their economies, and there are also difficult framework conditions in Europe that make Europe unattractive as a business location.”
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MEP Vilimsky accused the Austrian parties in power of backing the EU’s aggressive stance on the war.
“This is supported at the European level in a vote in the European Parliament on Jan. 18 by the ÖVP and the Greens. Apparently, the Austrian federal government and its interpreters in the European Parliament are not interested in neutrality and believe that more and more weapons can actually create peace,” said Vilimsky.