Constitutional embarrassment 

The Austrian parliament will ratify the EU constitutional treaty this Wednesday. Now suddenly, at the eleventh hour, a number of eminent Austrian constitutional experts have come to the fore who argue [DE] that the change of the political system by ratification of the EU constitutional treaty is so severe that a popular referendum would have been required by the Austrian constitution. A popular daily newspaper as well as both FPÖ-clones have also joined some sort of campaign for a referendum - mind you, all this is happening a few days before the ratification in parliament, and after no noticeable activity in the matter for the last several months.

ÖVP, SPÖ, and Greens, who are all against a national referendum, say that none is legally required (just because), and that for reasons of appropriate representation, an EU-wide referendum should have been the tool of choice for ratification. Yes, yes, in a perfect world - but in the real-existing European bazaar, European referenda will become possible only by means of, uh, the EU constitutional treaty. So it's a rather lame argument.

At the bottom of this is of course the fact that pro-EU political parties are keen to avoid any risk of awakening the sleeping beast of popular anti-EU sentiment by putting actual popular votes on the table. And the above-mentioned eminent constitutional experts have said that should the matter be brought before the Constitutional Court, the judges there would be loath to causing any unloyal trouble. It's a sad story. As if the last weeks hadn't brought enough depressing stories about the Austrian political system yet.


Sieht aus, als ob die österreichischen Politiker genauso viel Angst haben vor Volkes Stimme wie ihre deutschen Kollegen.

Bruno Kreisky, socialdemocratic chancellor from 1970 to 1983, once said that there must never be a referendum on reintroducing the death penalty in Austria. I am still puzzled by this thought.

Of course if the Constution comes into force it would be illegal to hold that Referendum.
"Nothing in this Charter shall be interpreted as implying any right to engage in any activity … aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized in this Charter or at their limitation."

Elaib, interesting, I was not aware of this. As an opponent of the death penalty I am however more easy with the idea of putting that beyond discussion than with Kreisky's apparent logic that even if a referendum is possible it must not occur because the democratic politician cannot trust the people.
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