Iain Dale picked up this morning on a surprising move from the Austrian Chancellor Gusenbauer: he’s promised a referendum on any new EU Treaty which “affects Austrian interests”.

This is a bit more complicated than it sounds. Gusenbauer is in pretty desperate political straits: only the other week he was forced out of his position as socialist party chairman following a period of muttering that he couldn’t lead his SPĂ– to another victory at the next elections, and a bad regional election result in Tyrol. Remind you of anyone? In Austria, as elsewhere or perhaps more than in most countries, Euroscepticism and the demand for a referendum have been gaining ground because of campaigns by populist newspapers and far-right parties but also because of genuine resentment among many citizens at not being consulted about anything since Austria joined the EU back in 1995. Gusenbauer is clearly trying to gain some ground by this surprising move.

I’m not sure it’s quite what it seems, though. I think Gusenbauer is protecting one flank with this populist move, while at the same time digging himself into what is effectively a determined “Lisbon or bust” position. It’s only days ago that he was suggesting there be a second Irish referendum, and this new promise applies not to Lisbon, but to any renegotiated treaty that might be put forward as a solution to the “Irish problem”. In other words, he is piling the pressure on Ireland by putting a spoke in any renegotiation.

2008-06-27T13:10:00+00:00Tags: , |