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Developments In Austria Concern Goff

Media Statement
Hon Phil Goff

3 February 2000


DEVELOPMENTS IN AUSTRIA CONCERN GOFF

Foreign Minister Phil Goff raised concerns about developments in Austria during a call by Austrian Ambassador Otmar Koler this morning.

“This was a timely visit because I was able to express New Zealand’s concerns about some of the extremist views expressed by the Freedom Party in Austria,” Mr Goff said after meeting Canberra-based Dr Koler, who is here for Waitangi Day celebrations.

Joerg Haider, leader of the Freedom Party which is poised to become part of the next Austrian Government, has been reported as once describing veterans of Hitler’s Waffen SS as “decent men of character” and was forced to resign as Governor of Carinthia in 1991 after saying the Third Reich had pursued “orderly” employment policies.

“Such comments cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged in a civilised world,” Mr Goff said. “I believe it important that other democracies in the world express their views on such positions so that they have no chance of gaining respectability.”

Mr Goff emphasised to Dr Koler that New Zealand respected the democratic processes that had been followed in Austria, and the rights of the Austrian people to vote for whoever they wished.

“However, any democracy may be put at risk if extremist views expressed in the past should ever come close to being put in action in the future,” he said.

The Freedom Party gained second equal place with the conservative Austrian Peoples’ Party in recent elections, and the two have just concluded a coalition agreement which awaits formal approval from the Austrian President. Mr Haider has stated he would not take a position in any future Government that might come about as a result of the agreement.

ENDS

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