Speeches by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to European parliaments have become routine. This is the act of recognition Ukrainian resistanceby patriotic lawmakers and repeated requests for arms shipments by Kiev, who claims to be defending the West from Russian expansionism and the democracies from the authoritarianism associated with it.
The applause has been unanimous so far, but the Austrian far-right of the Liberal Party (FPÖ) has distinguished itself with a complete plant for the President of Ukraine. Its members left parliament this morning, during a video conference with Zelensky, to protest a speech that, in their view, violated Austrian neutrality.
Zelensky had begun by expressing his gratitude to Austria for providing humanitarian aid and assistance in initiatives such as theLand mine clearance. Then he referred to the fact that it was necessary “not to be morally neutral in the face of evil.” “When we turn to you for support, we ask you to protect human lives. Ukraine wants to live in security, peace and freedom,” he said, before inviting Austrian lawmakers to travel to Ukraine and see the situation for themselves.
Although the Austrian government supports Ukraine politically, its neutrality prevents it from getting involved militarily in the conflict and does not supply the country with weapons in its war against the Russian invasion. The FPÖ was the only parliamentary group that understood the words of the Ukrainian president as a violation of the country’s neutrality and not as a spontaneous gesture.
“a place of peace”
The party’s leader, Herbert Kickl, declared at a press conference last Tuesday that “in any case, we will not contribute to this direct attack on Austrian neutrality.” For this reason, after the words of greeting and welcome to Zelensky by the Chairman of the National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, with which the event began, the deputies of the Freedom Party of Ukraine were the only ones who did not applaud and displayed banners with the inscriptions Peace “and” Neutrality place “, and left them in their seats before leaving the hall .
“Although we condemn Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, constitutionally we condemn Austria neutral country“Enduring neutrality is a cornerstone of our self-image, and speech by a representative of a party belligerent at the heart of our democracy is an absolute taboo,” said Herbert Kickel.
Neutrality, enshrined in the Austrian constitution, has been part of the country’s identity since World War II. Although it has provided 580 million euros in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, taken in 50,000 refugees and supported European sanctions on Russia, it keeps channels of communication with Moscow open and is not involved in arms shipments.
This past February, one year after the start of the Russian invasion and ahead of the European rearmament process, Austrian society reopened the debate for the first time and ninety experts and public figures publicly called for a reorientation of Austrian security policy. In an open letter he criticizes the fact that the nation is still out of conflict.
Among the signatories of the open letter to President Van der Bellen are First Vice President of the European Parliament Otmar Karras, of the European People’s Party, and former Liberal Defense Minister. Herbert Schreibner. His arguments are that important questions about the future of Austria, Europe and the international order are being neglected, “and above all the question of what pragmatic measures can best protect our country”. The letter stated that “Austria is behaving as if the world stopped on February 23, 2022, and many Austrians still believe or hope that nothing has really changed for our country, that we can stay out of all military conflicts and be protected for the foreseeable future.”