• Austria's news in English
Austrian far-right 'playing with fire' over EU referendum
Van der Bellen/Facebook

Austrian far-right 'playing with fire' over EU referendum

The Local/AFP · 8 Jul 2016, 12:19

Published: 08 Jul 2016 12:19 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

If the Freedom Party (FPOe) and Norbert Hofer "are going to fantasise about an EU exit, they are playing with fire," Alexander Van der Bellen, 72, told the Oesterreich daily.

The far-right "has been flirting for years with leaving the EU and the eurozone... I am going to make it an issue (in the campaign), of course, whether Hofer and the FPOe like it or not". 

Hofer, 45, and the anti-immigration FPOe have toughened their stance on Austria's membership of the European Union in the wake of Britain's June 23 vote to leave the bloc. 

"If the EU develops in the wrong way, instead of returning to its actual basic values, if it becomes more centralised, and if Turkey joins, then for me it would be time to say that Austrians must also be asked (about membership)," Hofer said after the "Brexit" vote.

A poll published by Oesterreich on Friday, albeit of only 600 people, found 52 percent of those surveyed were against Austria leaving the EU, 30 percent in favour and 18 percent undecided. Sixty percent opposed a referendum. 

Van der Bellen beat Hofer in a run-off on May 22 but by only 30,000 votes, and a far-right legal challenge succeeded in getting a court to annul the result because of procedural errors. A new vote is on October 2. 

Traditionally the Austrian head of state's job has been largely ceremonial but Hofer has indicated that he would make use of hitherto untapped powers afforded under Austria's constitution. 

Hofer becoming the EU's first far-right president would also be of enormous symbolic importance for the FPOe two years before the next scheduled general election, and be a fillip to other populist parties in Europe. 

Story continues below…

Van der Bellen's comments came on the day he was meant to be sworn in if his May victory had not been declared null and void, with incumbent Heinz Fischer formally stepping down in a ceremony on Friday. 

Fischer has been replaced on an interim basis by the speaker of parliament Doris Bures and her two deputies, one of whom is Hofer. He has rejected calls to step down from this post during the campaign.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local/AFP (news.austria@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Austrian far-right leader brands Merkel 'dangerous'
Heinz-Christian Strache. Photo: Facebook/Personal

The head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party has branded Angela Merkel Europe's most dangerous politician.

Austria 'horror clown' attacks leave several injured
Clown performers are not happy about the negative media stories. Photo: Graeme Maclean/Flickr

Several people have been injured in attacks by masked assailants dressed as 'creepy clowns' in the lead-up to Halloween.

Brunnenmarkt murder 'could have been prevented'
Locals remember the murdered woman. Photo: Wien Caritas

The random murder of a woman in Vienna could have been prevented if the homeless and mentally disturbed man who killed her had been admitted to a psychiatric institution.

Iraqi family ask ECJ to help them stay in Austria
Kumberg locals hold a vigil for the family. Photo: ORF

A group of people from Kumberg in Styria have asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for help in trying to stop the deportation of an Iraqi family.

The Local List
Five things you need to know about winter tyres
Photo: carmagazine.co.uk

It’s that time of year when temperatures start to plunge and drivers are advised to switch to winter tyres to avoid being caught out by snow and ice on the roads.

Radioactive uranium rocks on display in Austrian schools
Uraninite crystals. Photo: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com/Wikimedia

Education officials have carried out urgent checks in schools across the country after one of the stones on display in a classroom turned out to be radioactive.

Austrian churches slam far-right's 'God' slogan
Campaign poster for Norbert Hofer. Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Austrian church officials have denounced far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer for "instrumentalising" God in a new slogan.

'Scary clown' pushes 14-year-old off his bike in Salzburg
Generic photo: Graeme Maclean/Flickr

A 14-year-old boy in Salzburg has been injured after being pushed off his bike by an individual dressed as a scary clown.

Police puzzled by random stabbing of teenager in Vienna
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A 15-year-old boy who was stabbed near his home in the Vienna district of Liesing on Friday morning by a complete stranger has spoken to the police.

'Sensational' 300-year-old Madonna found in Burgenland
The head of the statue was found beside the body. Photo: ORF

A 300-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary has been found hidden in a chapel next to a Catholic church in Loretto, Burgenland.

12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available