Austria Table of Contents
Austria has generally enjoyed good relations with its neighbors, although there have been exceptions. The most notable exception has been its relationship with Italy, which was strained by the issue over Southern Tirol during the 1960s. This largely German-speaking region, which belonged to Austria-Hungary prior to World War I, was ceded to Italy in 1919 as a result of the peace negotiations. Until 1992 ethnic Germans in South Tirol, in the present-day region of Trentino-Alto Adige, had to struggle to maintain the measure of autonomy promised to them by the Italian government. Acts of terrorism directed against Italian targets became a serious problem in the 1960s, and Italy accused Austria of not doing enough to capture terrorists whom it claimed were using Austrian territory as a sanctuary. Austria and Italy eventually reached an agreement in 1969 on a timetable for satisfying the demands of the German-speaking South Tiroleans for cultural autonomy. Progress was slow, but in June 1992 an agreement was finally realized that granted the German speakers a greater degree of autonomy. Although not allowed the right to secede from Italy, the cultural rights of German speakers in Trentino-Alto Adige were enhanced with guarantees of education in their own language, greater representation in the civil service, and the right to go to the International Court of Justice in The Hague without permission from the government in Rome. Both Italian and Austrian authorities have declared themselves satisfied with the agreement.
Austria became concerned as the political stability of its neighbor to the south, Yugoslavia, began to unravel in 1991. As it became clear that the republics of Slovenia and Croatia were preparing to break away from the Yugoslav federation, a disagreement arose within the ÖVP-SPÖ coalition over when to grant diplomatic recognition to the new states. In September 1991, Foreign Minister Mock advocated immediate recognition, but Chancellor Vranitzky preferred that Austria wait until other European governments were ready to take the same step. In the end, Vranitzky prevailed in this debate, and recognition was delayed until January 1992, when the EC recognized the newly independent states.
On other important aspects of policy toward the breakup of Yugoslavia, greater unanimity existed between the ÖVP and SPÖ. Foreign Minister Mock was an early advocate of sending a UN peacekeeping force to prevent bloodshed as the various Yugoslav republics sought to establish their independence. In August 1991, Austria became the first UN member to bring to the attention of the Security Council the fact that large numbers of civilians in Slovenia and Croatia were being killed by Serbian forces. Despite their deep concern about the tragedy unfolding in Yugoslavia, both Mock and Vranitzky are in agreement that Austria's neutrality and its proximity to the fighting preclude the inclusion of Austrian troops in any UN peacekeeping force.
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During the 1980s and early 1990s, the literature on Austrian politics in English grew considerably. Austria: A Study in Modern Achievement, edited by Jim Sweeney and Josef Weidenholzer, contains a useful collection of articles on Austria's political system and political parties. Modern Austria, edited by Kurt Steiner, covers roughly the same ground, in some cases in more detail, but is somewhat dated because it was published in 1981. Melanie A. Sully's A Contemporary History of Austria is an excellent treatment of Austrian politics during the 1980s. It is particularly good on the interaction between the parties and their internal problems. John Fitzmaurice's Austrian Politics and Society Today covers roughly the same ground as Sully's book and is a readable introduction to Austrian politics. Politics in Austria, edited by Kurt Richard Luther and Wolfgang C. Müller, contains a collection of essays by Austrian political scientists examining the sociological changes in Austria during the postwar era and their impact on the political system. Readers with a knowledge of German should consult Handbuch des politischen Systems Österreichs, edited by Herbert Dachs et al., which contains a wealth of articles on political parties, political institutions, trade unions, foreign policy, and many areas of government policy. Also in German is the very useful Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, which contains articles by noted specialists and politicians about recent political developments. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of December 1993
Austria Table of Contents