VIENNA - Agence France-Presse
Austria’s Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger (L) listens to Chancellor Werner Faymann during a plenary session in Parliament in Vienna July 4. REUTERS photo
Austria’s Parliament approved the eurozone’s new mechanism to combat the debt crisis despite opposition from far-right parties who have slammed the accord as a power grab by Brussels.
The European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a new bailout fund due to soon come into effect, was approved by a two-thirds majority, with support from the ruling Social Democrats and conservatives, as well as the opposition Greens. Ahead of the vote, Chancellor Werner Faymann had urged deputies to look past party allegiance and support the measures.
“Only if we protect the European Union
together can we best protect Austria,” he told deputies, likening the situation to a doctor who has the opportunity to intervene earlier rather than later to heal a sick patient.
Europe needs to “avoid a financial crisis like in the 1930s and we can only avoid this through a stronger commitment,” Faymann said, alluding to the crisis that helped propel the Nazis to power in Germany some 80 years ago. “If we don’t show responsibility beyond party allegiance ... and make sure this protection exists in Europe, then we don’t have the right to say we are a common social, financial, peaceful and developed Europe.”
Finance Minister Maria Fekter described the ESM as “necessary,” comparing it to “a highly modern fire department that will prevent local fires from turning into Europe-wide blazes” in the future. “I can’t imagine why one would be against such sensible measures,” she said. But far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache condemned the measures as an “empowering law” handing Austrian sovereignty over to Brussels. The result of July 4’s decision will be “the absorption of Austria into a centralizing EU federal state, dominated by a financial dictatorship,” he told deputies, attacking them for taking decisions over the heads of taxpayers. Austria’s participation in the fund will amount to 19.5 billion euros.