What has changed since the neutrality was lifted has been lifted

COMMENTS FROM GERALD MADER (AUSTRIAN STUDIES CENTER FOR PEACE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION - ÖSFK) ON THE HEARING AT THE AUSTRIA CONVENT ON JANUARY 26, 2004

 

The focus of the Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ÖSFK) is on peace policy, peace education, conflict prevention, civil crisis management, civil conflict transformation and conflict mediation. It is therefore peace policy issues that we are bringing to the Convention.

 

1.         MANDATORY PUBLIC VOTE TO ABOLISH AUSTRIAN NEUTRALITY.

 

Austrian neutrality is constitutionally anchored in the Federal Constitutional Act of October 26, 1955 on neutrality and in international law through the notification to subjects of international law, which the former and current President of the Constitutional Court have referred to several times. Austrian neutrality is also firmly anchored in the consciousness of the Austrian population. In the opinion of most constitutional lawyers, however, neutrality is not one of the basic principles of the Federal Constitution, which is why the abolition of neutrality is not constitutionally subject to a referendum. However, the representatives of all parties have declared that they would still subject a relevant constitutional law to a referendum. The Convention offers the possibility of translating these declarations into action and adding to the Constitutional Law on Neutrality to the effect that the abolition or substantial modification of neutrality is subject to a referendum.


 

2.         THE CONTENT OF NEUTRALITY HAS CHANGED, BUT THE MILITARY CORE NEUTRALITY IS NOT OBSOLETE.

 

The content of Austrian neutrality has changed through accession to the UN, the end of the Cold War (Austria can determine its neutrality itself) and through accession to the EU in the current version of Nice, but the concept of neutrality is as far as its military component is concerned , not become obsolete. Neutrality therefore requires a new interpretation, a different understanding of neutrality, whereby the CFSP provision of the EU must be interpreted in the sense of the principles of the UN Charter, international law and the Constitutional Law on Neutrality.

 

3.         THE COMPATIBILITY OF AUSTRIAN NEUTRALITY IS TO BE MEASURED BY EXISTING EU LAW, NOT BY THE FOCAL INTEGRATION GOALS OF THE CFSP.

 

Austrian neutrality is not a relic of the past, but is still of importance in terms of peace policy today. It only makes no sense if there is an integrated foreign, security and defense policy based on the UN Charter and international law. As long as the foreign and security policy is perceived at the intergovernmental level, the neutral and non-aligned states have the option of a "special security policy", which Austria was referred to when it joined the EU. Since the integration of foreign and security policy is not expected in the foreseeable future, Austrian neutrality must be judged on the basis of existing EU law and not on the basis of further integration goals, as nobody knows whether, when and under what conditions this will occur becomes.


 

4.         THE AUSTRIAN POPULATION IS HOLDING TO THE NEUTRALITY, WHICH A DEMOCRATICALLY LEGITIMATED GOVERNMENT HAS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.

 

According to Article 1 BVG, Austria is a democratic republic whose law originates from the people. The decisions of parliament and government, which are in flagrant contradiction to the political will of the overwhelming majority of the population, therefore lack democratic legitimacy. We know from all opinion polls that the Austrian population clings to Austrian neutrality, not because the Austrians are stupid or free riders, but because, unlike many political elites, they reject a military foreign policy and face a hegemonic, nontransparent and undemocratic one Fear of power politics in the EU that could involve Austria in wars. If the Austrian constitutional law on neutrality is to be abolished, a referendum is therefore also required for reasons of democratic legitimacy.

 

5.         THE CONFLICTIONS BETWEEN THE NEUTRALITY CONSTITUTIONAL ACT AND § 23 F BVG LEAD TO AN UNCLEAR LEGAL SITUATION THAT MUST BE ELIMINATED.

 

The Austrian federal governments have taken account of the requirement of democratic legitimation insofar as they never attempted to amend or repeal the constitutional law on neutrality. However, the Federal Constitution was changed, the new Article 23 f (Amsterdam Treaty) was interpreted as a derogation in terms of content, so that an unclear legal situation about the content of such a derogation has arisen.

 

It should therefore be an important task of the Convention to remove this unclear legal situation. There are basically two ways to do this: The repeal of the constitutional neutrality law in the sense of the opponents of neutrality or a complete repeal or amendment of § 23 f BVG. The latter variant corresponds to a peace policy objective as long as EU law has not created clear criteria for the implementation of military operations that go beyond the division of the so-called Petersberg tasks.

 

6.         REVOLUTION OR AMENDMENT OF § 23 f BVG.

 

The simpler solution would be to delete Article 23f, since the effectiveness of EU treaties does not depend on whether their wording or content is adopted in the Federal Constitution.

 

However, the amendment appears to be more effective. Austria could send a European political signal by amending or supplementing Article 23f if it is for the first time stipulated verbatim in a European constitution that peace-making operations by the EU out of area are linked to a mandate from the UN Security Council.

 

The grand coalition constitutional clause (agreement of the Federal Chancellor and Foreign Minister) should be deleted for reasons of right-wing aesthetics.

 

7.         DEFENSE PERMANENT NEUTRALITY.

 

Article 9a BVG contains not only the "comprehensive national defense" which is problematic today, but also the reference to the "maintenance and defense of perpetual neutrality". Should Article 9a be omitted due to the fact that comprehensive national defense is no longer up-to-date, the phrase "Maintaining and defending permanent neutrality" should be inserted in Article 79 Paragraph 1 BVG. It should not be the aim of the Convention to remove the word "neutrality" from the Federal Constitution.


 

8.         COMMITMENT TO PEACE POLICY AND A FUTURE-ORIENTED SECURITY POLICY AND A MODERN SECURITY CONCEPT.

 

Instead of the commitment to comprehensive national defense, a new Austrian constitution should commit itself to peace policy, i.e. to a policy with peaceful means and to a security policy or security concept that is not primarily defined militarily.

 

Peace policy: Why can Austria not express in its constitution the outlawing of nuclear weapons and the de-legitimation of war as a means of politics? Austria could send a European political signal for a future European foreign and security policy.

 

Security policy (security concept): Civil conflict management is anchored in the CFSP, which at least in theory provides for civil and military security policy on an equal footing. Why should Austria not try to distinguish itself disproportionately in non-military crisis management, as proposed by various sides, the non-aligned and neutral states in the sense of a division of labor? Here, too, Austria has the chance to play a pioneering role in Europe, in which it recognizes a security concept in which the anchoring and strengthening of civil conflict settlement structures and the development of the necessary capacities are laid down in the constitution.

 

9.         LIMITATION OF THE MILITARY BUDGET TO 1% OF THE GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT

 

The draft of a European Constitutional Treaty obliges the member states to arm, with 3% of the gross domestic product being demanded. According to the calculations of the military expert Lutz Unterseher, a 1% share of the military budget in the gross domestic product is sufficient to meet the military requirements if Europe does not want to carry out global military interventions in different places at the same time. The share of the Austrian military budget is below 1%, so that a constitutional restriction of 1% would correspond to the Austrian situation, but at the same time would be a signal against the rearmament required by European constitutional law.