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Posts tagged ‘Bavaria Land of Austria’

Croats gather in Austria for controversial commemoration

May 12, 2018

BLEIBURG, Austria (AP) — Thousands of Croatian far-right supporters gathered in a field in southern Austria on Saturday to commemorate the massacre of pro-Nazi Croats by victorious communists at the end of World War II.

The controversial annual event was held amid a surge of far-right sentiment in Croatia, the European Union’s newest member. For Croatian nationalists, the Bleiburg site symbolizes their suffering under communism in Yugoslavia before they fought a war for independence in the 1990s.

Tens of thousands of Croatians, mostly pro-fascist soldiers known as Ustashas, fled to Bleiburg in May 1945 amid a Yugoslav army offensive, only to be turned back from Austria by the British military and into the hands of revengeful anti-fascists. Thousands were killed and buried in mass graves in and around Bleiburg.

The Croatian Ustasha regime sent tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and Croatian anti-fascists to death camps during the war. Top Croatian officials attended Saturday’s gathering Saturday on a vast field surrounded by mountains. Croatian Catholic Church clergy held a Mass for the killed Croats.

“Awful crimes have been committed in the Bleiburg field,” Croatian parliament speaker Gordan Jandrokovic said. “Today we are paying our respect to the victims, civilians as well as soldiers.” Croatia’s center-right government has been accused of turning a blind eye to the rising extremism and downplaying the crimes of the Ustasha regime. The policies have triggered protests from Croatia’s minority Jewish and Serb communities.

Top Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff said he tried to persuade Austria’s conservative government to ban the rally, but without success. “It’s absolutely outrageous that Austrian authorities allow an event like this to happen,” Zuroff told The Associated Press by phone from Jerusalem. “In Austria, you are not allowed to brandish Nazi symbols, but they allow Ustasha symbols.”

For the first time since the first massive commemoration was held in the 1990s, Austrian authorities on Saturday banned the Ustasha insignia to be worn at the event. Despite the ban, some participants brandished T-shirts bearing the Ustasha wartime call: “For the Homeland, ready!”

“The main culprit of the tragedy of those people was the British Army because they tricked the Croatian soldiers to disarm before they were handed over to (Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Broz) Tito,” said Branko Mandic, one of the mourners.

A small anti-Fascist rally was held in the town of Bleiburg, with protesters displaying banners reading “Nazis Out!” Croatian officials repeatedly have denied backing policies that run counter to European Union standards, saying they are focused on major economic and social reforms and not the revival of the far-right sentiments.

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Thousands protest Austria’s new right-wing government

January 13, 2018

VIENNA (AP) — Thousands of Austrians are protesting their country’s new right-wing government with a march in Vienna. Police in the capital said about 20,000 people were attending the march on Saturday.

Some protesters carried placards reading “Never Again.” Others chanted slogans such as “Refugees should stay, drive out the Nazis.” The new governing coalition made up of the conservative Austrian People’s Party and the nationalist Freedom Party has taken a hard line against migration.

New Austrian leader rejects talk of eastern EU alliance

January 05, 2018

SEGGAUBERG, Austria (AP) — Austria’s new chancellor on Friday rejected suggestions that his government will align broadly with eastern nations that have clashed with the European Union over migrants and other issues.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz leads a coalition with the traditionally euroskeptic Freedom Party that took office just before Christmas. Both Kurz’ conservative People’s Party and the Freedom Party have taken a hard line against migration.

The position has generated speculation that Austria could move closer to the Visegrad group of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia than its western EU allies. Kurz, who at 31 is Europe’s youngest leader, warned Friday against “over-interpreting things.”

“There are measures and initiatives where we have goodwill in western European countries,” he told reporters after a meeting of the new Cabinet. “There are others where we will perhaps get applause from the Visegrad countries, and still others where we agree with all other 27 EU member states.”

Kurz plans to visit Paris and Berlin in coming weeks. He said he expects a “good exchange” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, stressing that “Germany is our biggest neighbor, our most important economic partner.”

Of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has championed efforts to reform the EU, Kurz said: “It is clearly positive for all of us in the European Union that there is a French president who aspires to change something in the European Union.”

Kurz called for an EU that is strong on “big questions” such as border security but leaves many policy decisions to countries and regions. Austria will hold the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of this year, when the bloc should be finalizing terms of Britain’s departure.

“I very much hope that we succeed in organizing an orderly departure by the British,” Kurz said, arguing that a failure to do so would hurt both sides.

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

2017-12-17

ANKARA – Turkey on Sunday slammed the incoming Austrian government, a coalition between conservatives and the far-right, for “discrimination” after its program contained a pledge that Vienna will not agree to Ankara joining the EU.

The landmark coalition deal, marking the return to power in Austria of the Freedom Party (FPOe), has sparked ripples of concern throughout Europe after a year of successes for far-right movements in Europe.

The chancellor-elect, Sebastian Kurz of the conservative People’s Party (OeVP), already has a deeply-fractious relationship with Ankara due to his staunch opposition to Turkey’s EU bid while serving as foreign minister.

“This baseless and short-sighted statement in the new Austrian government’s program unfortunately confirms concerns about a political trend based on discrimination and marginalization,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Accusing the incoming government of “dishonesty”, it warned that if realized, the program would bring Austria “to the brink of losing Turkey’s friendship” and be met with “the reaction that it deserves”.

Turkey’s decades-long ambition to join the EU has hit the buffers in recent months as the bloc sounded the alarm over the crackdown that followed the 2016 coup bid aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While Austria has called for the accession process to be formally halted, this has met with opposition from key EU members, notably Germany.

Meeting Erdogan on his trip to Greece earlier this month — the first by a Turkish president in 65 years — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also backed Turkey’s EU bid.

But last month, the EU cut funds destined to Turkey in the 2018 budget, citing doubts about Ankara’s commitment to democracy and human rights in a move supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86461.

New Austrian government pledges pro-EU approach, more police

December 16, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — The new Austrian government led by a conservative and a nationalist party is pledging to tighten the country’s asylum and immigration regulations while maintaining a firm commitment to the European Union, according to their coalition agreement released Saturday.

Under the deal reached late Friday night, Sebastian Kurz, head of the Austrian People’s Party, will become chancellor, which will make him Europe’s youngest leader when he is sworn in on Monday at age 31. Right-wing Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache will be vice chancellor and minister for sports and public servants.

“This can be the basis for real change in Austria,” Kurz told reporters, introducing the government program that runs more than 180 pages. The document begins with a statement reinforcing Austria’s commitment to the EU and other international organizations, saying that no Brexit-like referendums would be allowed.

“Only in a strong Europe can there also be a strong Austria, in which we are able to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century,” the document reads. At the same time, the People’s Party-Freedom Party partnership is expected to move the country to the right. Both campaigned on the need for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.

The coalition agreement calls for bolstering the country’s police forces with another 2,100 officers, as well as immigration policies that “can be sustained by the population.” It also says asylum should only be offered to people “for the duration of their persecution, who really need Austria’s help”

Other points include ending illegal migration, cutting government bureaucracy, reducing taxes and creating a new national climate and energy strategy. Kurz’s party finished first in the country’s Oct. 15 election and then embarked on coalition talks with the Freedom Party, which came in third after the center-left Social Democrats.

In the new government, the Freedom Party will have another five ministers in addition to Strache and a deputy minister, including leadership of the important Interior, Defense and Foreign Ministries, the Austria Press Agency reported.

Along with Kurz as chancellor, the People’s Party will have seven ministers and one deputy, with responsibilities including the Finance, Economy and Justice Ministries. Kurz is the foreign minister in the outgoing government under Chancellor Christian Kern, a Social Democrat. He has stressed the importance of a pro-European direction and is expected to continue to take the lead on European issues even though the Freedom Party, which has traditionally been strongly euroskeptic, will have the Foreign Ministry.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said after he was presented with the coalition agreement and minister choices earlier Saturday that he saw no issues preventing the new government from being sworn in.

Following meetings with Kurz and Strache, Van der Bellen said he’d been assured a “pro-European” focus was central to that of the new government. “In these talks, among other things, we agreed it is in the national interest of Austria to remain at the center of a strong European Union and to actively participate in the future development of the European Union,” he said.

Austria: 1 dead, 21 hurt in explosion at natural gas plant

December 12, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — An explosion Tuesday at a major natural gas facility near Austria’s border with Slovakia left one person dead and 21 injured, and caused some gas flow disruptions to other countries, authorities said.

One person was seriously injured and 20 others slightly hurt in the morning blast at the plant in Baumgarten an der March, east of Vienna, police said. No one was in a life-threatening condition. The facility’s operator said all the victims were Austrian.

The explosion set off a fire, which operator Gas Connect said was quickly contained and completely extinguished by mid-afternoon. The facility was “shut down in a controlled state and is offline,” the company said.

Police wrote on Twitter that the explosion was triggered by a “technical cause,” but didn’t elaborate and said that local authorities are investigating. Gas Connect said it also suspects an unspecified technical fault.

Gas Connect describes the Baumgarten plant, where pipelines bringing gas from Russia, Norway and other countries connect and gas is compressed and cooled, as one of Europe’s most important gas supply hubs.

“Austria’s natural gas supply can be covered for the foreseeable future,” the company said on its website. However, “transit through Austria to the south and southeast regions is currently negatively impacted,” it added.

Neighboring Italy’s Economic Development Ministry declared an emergency after the explosion interrupted the flow of natural gas to the country, but said Italy’s supply of gas would be ensured by existing stockpiles.

Italy’s SNAM natural gas transport network said flows could resume in the course of the day if it is confirmed that no transport infrastructure was damaged.

Austrian poised to become Europe’s 1st millennial leader

October 16, 2017

VIENNA (AP) — At age 31, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz is poised to become the first millennial to lead a European country following his party’s victory in a national election Sunday. While no party won a majority, the telegenic Kurz is most likely to be sworn in as Austria’s next chancellor — and Europe’s youngest leader — after the tough coalition government negotiations that lie ahead.

Near-final results from Sunday’s balloting put his People’s Party comfortably in first place, with 31.4 percent of the vote. The right-wing Freedom Party came in second with 27.4 percent. The center-left Social Democratic Party of Austria, which now governs in coalition with People’s Party, got 26.7 percent.

Becoming head of government would be the next leap in a political career that started eight years ago when Kurz, then studying law, was elected chairman of his party’s youth branch. Smart and articulate, he eventually caught the eye of People’s Party elders. He was appointed state secretary for integration, overseeing government efforts to make immigrants into Austrians, in 2011.

After a Social Democratic-People’s Party coalition was formed four years ago, Kurz, then 27, became Austria’s foreign minister — the youngest top diplomat in Europe. He hosted several rounds of talks between Iran and six other countries on Tehran’s nuclear program, meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other powerbrokers. Other international events further boosted his visibility and party influence.

When a new wave of migrants and refugees seeking to relocate to Europe became a continent-wide concern in 2015, Kurz recognized Austrian voters’ anxiety over unchecked immigration involving large numbers of Muslim newcomers.

He called for tougher external border controls, better integration and stringent control of “political Islam” funded from abroad. He also organized the shutdown of the popular overland route through the West Balkans many newcomers were using to reach the EU’s prosperous heartland.

By now, Kurz and his traditionally centrist party had drifted considerably to the right of their Social Democratic government partners, making governing difficult. Kurz’s moment came when both agreed this spring to an early national election.

The People’s Party, then lagging in third place and long seen as a stodgy old boys network, made him leader. Kurz set out to reinvent the party’s image after securing guarantees for unprecedented authority.

The youthful, Vienna-born politician turned out to be the tonic the party needed, helping it shrug off criticism that it’s been part of the political establishment for decades. He mostly goes without a tie, works standing behind a desk and flies economy class. He has a girlfriend, but is private about his life outside politics.

Noting that his center-right party had triumphed over the rival Social Democrats only twice since the end of World War II, Kurz called Sunday’s election a “historic victory.”

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