The authors' analysis sheds light on Austria's foreign policy after the Second World war and offers insights into recent developments based on many years of experience in the diplomatic service. This book describes the most important issues of the Second Republic's foreign policy in a succinct yet captivating way and provides insight into diplomatic practice. It is aimed at readers who are interested in international issues in general and Austrian foreign policy in particular and offers a highly informative and thoroughly readable overview of the developments of the past decades - from the re-establishment of the Foreign Service and Austria's role in the Cold War to the changes that have taken place since Austria's accession to the EU. The book sheds light on Austria's relations with her direct neighbouring states, the ambivalent relationship with the USA and the effects of the collapse of the USSR. The authors have written this book based on many years of experience in the diplomatic service. With their analysis they aim to contribute to a better understanding of Austria's position in an international context. They do not just direct their gaze into the past but also into the present and future of Austria's foreign policy. Above all they take into account the fundamental changes that took place at the beginning of the 21st century - changes that have brought totally new challenges for Austria.
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Originally published in German language as Anspruch und Wirklichkeit. Österreichs Außenpolitik seit 1945.
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Franz Cede/Christian Prosl
Ambition and Reality
Austria’s Foreign Policy since 1945
The idea for this book came about in the Viennese “Griensteidl” coffee house in a conversation between its authors, who had gone into retirement several years before and who now observe Austria’s foreign policy “from the outside” and in retrospect. They felt the need to comment upon this policy and had to defend it among their circle of friends which was not always an easy task. This led them to realize that, astoundingly, no book on Austria’s foreign policy since 1945 had yet been printed that would present this topic concisely and in an easily understandable manner. This discovery prompted them, after careful consideration, to be so bold as to create their own short introduction to Austrian foreign policy since 1945. Ultimately there was also the compelling argument that it would be unfortunate if the treasure trove of experiences we had collected during decades of Austrian diplomatic service was to be lost.
The book contains a brief presentation of the most important topics of Austrian foreign policy and offers insight into diplomatic practice. It is aimed at readers interested in foreign policy without requiring any detailed previous knowledge. Therefore we have deliberately avoided footnotes. The volume concludes with selected bibliographical references that should facilitate a more in-depth study of the topic. We have also made no bones about providing our own assessments of the issues discussed where we considered this appropriate. Going beyond historical observation, we have “outed” ourselves in an introductory chapter written together and in the closing remarks with a personal statement on Austrian foreign policy, with the sincere intention of – hopefully – providing useful food for thought for the future. At this point we would especially like to thank our colleagues and friends Ludwig Adamovich, Michael Dippelreiter, Gerhard Jandl, Georg Hennig, Paul Leifer, Paul Luif, Werner Maleczek, Georg Posch, Anton Prohaska, Walter Siegl, Helene Steinhäusl and Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger for their willingness to share their extensive knowledge with us. We also owe Ruth Mayr and Nina Gruber a great debt of gratitude for their discerning assistance. Of course, the opinions presented in the book are the sole responsibility of the authors.
For the financial support of the English translation we would like to thank the Government of Tyrol, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria as well as the Schneider Family in California.
Finally, we wish to thank our wives who, despite the already substantial part they have played in our careers, were generous enough to grant us the necessary time for this endeavor.
We dedicate this book to our children as representatives of the younger generation.
Franz Cede, Christian Prosl
Since the days of the monarchy Viennese diplomacy, based on an aristocratic heritage, has had the reputation of combining elegant charm with excellent knowledge of languages and history. But at the same time it was considered shrewd and cynical, having “seen it all”. In the exhibition “A European Idea: 200 Years of the Congress of Vienna” presented in the Federal Chancellery in 2015, one was able to get a first-hand look at Metternich’s spying methods. For the first time in 200 years the hatches in the ceiling through which Metternich’s staff could listen in on the negotiators’ speeches and write them down were opened again.
Although Austria’s diplomatic achievements and her foreign policy until the end of the monarchy are well documented and fill bookshelves, until now there has been no concise professional presentation of Austria’s foreign policy since the end of World War II.
With their book “Ambition and Reality. Austria’s Foreign Policy since 1945” the authors and former top diplomats Franz Cede and Christian Prosl have filled that gap. With their matter-of-fact (and sometimes downright austere) language they end the mystery that still seems to surround Vienna’s diplomatic activity at times. The authors do an outstanding and pragmatic job in fulfilling the task, applying the standards they had set themselves: reviewing the essential developments of Austria’s foreign policy since 1945 as well as examining her current foreign policy.
However, they do not limit themselves to merely describing major foreign policy projects and initiatives. In line with the book’s title, they thoroughly and critically scrutinize Austria’s foreign policy of the post-war era to which they themselves made substantial contributions. In many instances they overcome their diplomatic reluctance and make no bones about pointing out the flaws and deficiencies of that policy. They take stock of the current state of affairs and present a list of topics where Austria’s foreign policy could and should play a role in the future.
This being said, we also have to read between the lines, which is not unusual in the diplomatic world, and sometimes we have to ask ourselves why some topics are not mentioned, although the twenty eight chapters present a good overview of Austria’s foreign policy as a whole.
Rather unusual for a history book, and therefore all the more interesting, are the parts that treat future perspectives of Austria’s foreign policy and indeed Austria’s future as such: it would be a mistake to rely on “marketing” Austria and promoting her like a product which is all too typical in the tourism industry, or even to indulge in the stereotypes of blissful waltzes, chocolate Mozartkugel or Lipizzaner. It is far more important to continually develop Austria’s identity, so that she is relevant in a competitive, increasingly global environment. But this also means being conscious of one’s own interests, getting involved, taking stances and promoting the necessary political dialogue.
In the past, as far as economic and social competences are concerned, Austria’s scientists and politicians (Leopold Kohr, Josef Riegler) have shown a promising approach in further developing Müller-Armack’s classic social market economy that can almost be considered an essential characteristic of our country. Based on his theory they developed a type of “new capitalism”, but unfortunately these efforts have been stuck in the dense thicket of Austria’s institutional lobbies. However, in view of today’s great crises we could seize the opportunity to develop an Austrian economic and social model that would implement the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and would be viable, at least at the EU level, by using innovative approaches and collaborating with international scientific institutions available in Austria, such as the IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg), the Institute for Higher Studies (IHS, Vienna) or the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (WIIW). But this initiative would only gain credibility if it were accompanied by domestic reforms that are still severely lacking at this time.
Instead of relying on a policy that lacks seriousness and that results in all-too-great a gap between “ambition” and “reality”, Austria should start developing realistic and courageous policies. There is hardly an area where this kind of policy is so desperately needed as in development cooperation which has to be reconsidered in view of the growing influx of refugees. It is simply irresponsible, as has been the case over the last 40 years, to resolve every year in the UN General Assembly to provide 0.7% of our GDP for development financing and then, despite “creative bookkeeping”, to disburse merely 0.28%. It should be noted as well that development cooperation, when implemented correctly, can also in the long run serve the interests of Austrian companies.
Only by committing to adopting smart policies, by developing competitive companies, by dedicating ourselves to the global objectives of sustainability, by upholding the “rule of law” and using our potential for cultural achievements will we be successful and gradually achieve the image of Austria that we all desire.
In this context reference should be made to Simon Anholt, the inventor of the “Nation Brands Index”, who has presented a concept for “Austrian branding” on behalf of the Austrian federal government. He recommends a vision of an Austrian model that “could ultimately inspire a desperately needed alternative to the prevailing model of aggressive Anglo-Saxon capitalism”. As a strategy he recommends that Austrians become the “bridge builders for the world”: “... in Southeastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and beyond, Austria functions as a ‘bridge builder’ and introduces a unique storehouse of experience and ideas, as well as a unique social, cultural and political model, in order to help second-tier nations achieve sustainable advances, stability and prosperity.” For our country this would be a considerable task with concrete goals.
For decades, Austria’s international efforts were focused on a “policy of active neutrality”. But now that our neutrality has become “hollow and meaningless”, as the two authors assert, the question must be asked: how can Austria fulfill her bridge building mission?
At all events Austria has the capacity to expand her role as an international meeting place, offer international organizations a home base, present herself as an “honest broker” and mediator, play the role of facilitator or serve as an “impartial referee”, to borrow a term from soccer.
The fact that the European Union is currently discovering the usefulness of “soft diplomacy” opens up a special opportunity. Cultural initiatives can be powerful tools for tearing down prejudices and nationalism and for helping Europe realize that its cultural diversity is its greatest treasure. Austria, which emerged from a multinational state and today can pride herself on a staggering number of cultural achievements for a country of her size, could develop European leadership in this respect.
There are more than enough opportunities for foreign policy initiatives. But we have to do our homework if we want to turn these opportunities into successful foreign policies. To this end it will be necessary to give the Foreign Ministry the human and financial resources it needs instead of regularly reducing its budget. In order to be able to act efficiently, politics and diplomacy must strive for the same result. In the council meetings in Brussels Austria must do more than merely ally her position to whichever position Germany adopts. In this regard Austria can learn from France, which is a close partner of Germany: despite differing opinions they act with one voice vis-à-vis the outside world. But it is just as important to better orchestrate the participation of various domestic economic stakeholders, so that we sound more like a symphony than a cacophony.
From my experience modern diplomats must be policy managers and policy developers if they are to fulfill their mission successfully in the future. In acting as an interface between politics and administration they are responsible for defending Austria’s interests. In this endeavor the Diplomatic Academy plays an important role as a training center for the next generation of diplomats, although it almost enjoys greater esteem abroad than it does in Austria.
This book by its two authors fills a gap in understanding Austria’s foreign policy and its significance for the country’s future. It does more than provide reading pleasure and should find its place in every school library in Austria.
The authors would like to precede this short presentation of Austria’s foreign policy after 1945 with some basic considerations. After decades of activity in the diplomatic service we are committed to share our practical experiences and personal views with anyone who is interested in international affairs in general and Austrian foreign policy in particular. The authors see this as their duty to the younger generation and want to help it better understand our country’s position in the world.
The following “guiding principles” are not directed at Austria’s past foreign policy but rather are meant for the present and the future. Above all they take into account the fundamental changes at the beginning of the 21st century which forced Austria to face completely new challenges.
The authors wish to make it clear that they are not interested in cheap polemics. Rather, it is our intent to describe the realities “sine ira et studio” and draw conclusions that nurture practical understanding. To simplify reading the authors’ central points are kept short and succinct.
Apparently, this straightforward conclusion has still not really been grasped by the general public in Austria. Domestic and foreign policies are generally perceived as isolated from each other. Consequently, although every international development has immediate implications for Austria’s politics, economy, and society, its impacts on our everyday life remain underestimated. In times of globalization the boundaries separating domestic and foreign policy have largely disappeared. The events “out there” affect all of us “in here”. Goethe could comfortably lean back against his window “while, far away in Turkey, the peoples were waging war”. Today, we are directly affected by events in the parts of the Middle East (Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine) that Goethe found so remote. Who can deny that developments there and for that matter in any other region directly touch upon our lives? There are no longer any issues of foreign policy that we can observe from a distance. The massive impact of international politics on Austria’s domestic affairs can be demonstrated by a long list of cases (such as the recent EU sanctions against Russia or the stream of refugees from crisis zones). On the other hand Austria’s domestic developments also influence its foreign policy and Austria is being watched closely by the outside world for example with respect to our economic policies, our treatment of asylum seekers, or anti-Semitic incidents. These policies and events often have direct consequences for our foreign policy.
The erroneous assumption that foreign policy lies only in the hands of diplomats and experts is based on an understanding of foreign politics that has been obsolete since at least World War I. Before the emergence of modern democratic states in the 20th century, the conduct of external affairs as well as commanding the armed forces were privileges enjoyed by the sovereign ruler who appointed diplomats to represent him abroad and generals to wage wars on his behalf. In the “Austro-Hungarian Monarchy” this power was exercised by the Emperor. A glance at the Austrian Federal Constitution reveals that the concept of monarchist state doctrine, albeit modified, lives on in the Republic of Austria. According to the Constitution, the federal president is the supreme commander of the Austrian Armed Forces and is responsible for representing the Republic abroad. In reality, the state’s monopoly on conducting foreign policy has long ceased to exist in the modern world. This is also the case for Austria: many players have joined the federal president and the foreign minister – and his or her domestic and foreign staff – who all make a specific contribution to Austria’s position in the world, and therefore to Austria’s foreign policy in the widest sense. The state representatives and ministers (the federal chancellor, the federal ministers and their bureaucratic bodies) are active abroad without the formal duty to coordinate their actions. The National Security Council meets under the chairmanship of the federal chancellor, and the foreign minister leads the Foreign Affairs Council. The Austrian Parliament has significant responsibilities in foreign affairs that have been expanded in recent years. The foreign minister answers to the Foreign Policy Committee of the Parliament. In addition, there are numerous parastatal institutions, above all the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich – WKÖ) that has become an important player in foreign policy drawing on its worldwide network of foreign trade agencies (Foreign Trade Centers). Other interest groups such as the Federation of Austrian Industry, the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions, and the Chamber of Labor live up to Austria’s reputation as a country organized through “federations”, “chambers” and “associations”. All of them have offices in Brussels at the EU-institutions. The Austrian mission at the EU is already bursting at the seams because in addition to the official state representatives, it can barely harbor the countless offices put up by individual interest groups. Non-governmental organizations (e. g. Amnesty International Austria, Greenpeace, etc.) are also effective in specific foreign policy issues.
In traditional thinking the responsibility for foreign policy and for concluding international agreements rests with central government. For a long time it was assumed in Austria that developing relationships with foreign states and concluding international agreements fell exclusively into the federal government’s area of competence. The evolution of international relations has largely made this concept obsolete. Besides the federal government the Austrian provinces and municipalities play an important role in regional cross-border cooperation, not to mention the non-governmental players who also act abroad on Austria’s behalf.
The “Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino Euroregion” founded in 1998, and the Alps-Adria Working Group are just two examples of new forms of cross-border cooperation between regional authorities. Incidentally, the EU expressly recognized the growing European significance of regional foreign policy by creating the “European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation” (EGTC). The EGTC connects countries and regions that are in a position to raise their cooperation to an institutional level.
Even the actions of individuals influence foreign policy directly: Austrian tourists or the victims of kidnapping who are freed through political negotiations with countries or organizations, but also Austrians participating in demonstrations abroad (e. g. against nuclear power plants close to their borders).
Accession to the EU changed the prevailing premise under which Austria was free to shape her foreign policy as a sovereign state. Membership in the EU has brought about a paradigm shift in Austria: as a member of the EU Austria’s relationship to the Union no longer presents itself as an “external matter” in the classical sense, since Austria is an integral part of this union of states with many supranational aspects. This means that the member states have ceded a substantial amount of their sovereign authority to the European Union. The degree to which the EU has affected all areas of life in Austria is revealed by the single fact that two-thirds of all legal provisions currently applicable in Austria were created by the EU institutions in Brussels.
When she joined the EU Austria formally declared she was ready and able to participate effectively in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the EU and to fulfill her obligations under it. In plain language this means that Austria’s foreign policy must follow the EU’s rules and voting mechanisms. This greatly limited Austria’s room for maneuver in terms of an independent foreign policy. On the other hand Austria’s full participation in the CFSP offers new and interesting opportunities in shaping and implementing European foreign policy along with her EU partners.
The EU legal provisions relating to the CFSP have had a particularly strong impact on the concept of Austrian neutrality. By adjusting the Austrian legal system to the treaties of the EU all legal obstacles to the obligations arising out of the CFSP were removed. As a logical consequence Austrian neutrality was reduced to a minimum when it joined the EU.
The intertwining of foreign and security policies is obvious on a national as well as on the EU level. It’s no coincidence that both policies are dealt with together in the CFSP. Whereas national security and defense were considered as belonging to the core responsibilities of a sovereign state before Austria’s accession to the EU, her membership has brought a fundamental change. Even allowing for the fact that the EU is only progressing slowly in developing a common European defense policy and European defense, since her accession to the EU Austria can no longer “go it alone” when it comes to security policies. On the contrary, since then, Austria has become fully involved in the EU Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) and has already participated in a series of EU military missions. Moreover, Austrian Lieutenant General Wolfgang Wosolsobe was named Director General of the EU Military Staff in June 2013. Thus one of the EU’s chief offices in the military sector is now headed by an Austrian.
Although parliaments generally played a subordinate role in international relations in the 19th century (and up until the end of World War II), their influence has steadily grown in recent decades. This development can also be seen in Austria. Within the Austrian National Council (Lower House) both the Main Committee and the Foreign Policy Committee are constantly dealing with international issues. To complement their work a Permanent Committee on EU Affairs was set up. These committees ensure the participation of the Austrian Parliament in the federal government’s decision-making process on foreign policy and in the EU’s legislative process. The fact that members in the European Parliament are elected directly in the EU member states as well as the expansion of the European Parliament’s powers by the Treaty of Lisbon (which entered into force on December 1, 2009) have significantly enhanced democracy in the EU. The increasingly important role of democratic institutions in the member states as well as in the EU in foreign affairs has led to a parliamentary control of foreign affairs issues which had generally been lacking in the past.
Austrians’ love of travel and the growing number of Austrians abroad (currently around 400,000) have led to rapid growth in the number of consular cases that have to be dealt with by the Foreign Ministry in Vienna and the Austrian Embassies and Consulates worldwide. The consular sector covers a broad spectrum of official functions (e. g. with respect to passport and visa matters), protection and assistance in emergency situations of every kind, as well as support for Austrians who have come into conflict with the law in their country of residence. The general public usually only becomes aware of such consular support when a spectacular case of kidnapping (two Austrian hostages in Mali in 2008), an especially tragic accident (a crash of a Lauda Air airplane in Thailand in 1991) or a natural catastrophe with Austrian victims (the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami) make it to the headlines. Considering this, it’s easy to forget that the brunt of consular work done by Foreign Ministry officials both domestic and abroad must be tackled daily in the shadow of media reports.
But woe betide anyone if any consular activity goes wrong! The shameful visa scandal at a few embassies at the beginning of the century was immediately on everyone’s lips. The reaction of the media knows no bounds if the fate of even one Austrian abroad is in danger. Every Foreign Minister knows this only too well. Their image depends – to a not insignificant extent – on how the work of their staff in the consular sector is judged by the media.
In the formulation and implementation of foreign policy the role of the media through their reports, talk shows, and their own analyses should not be underestimated. This applies to all countries, from democracies to dictatorships. However, due to the specific structure of the Austrian media landscape and the reciprocal dependency of the media and politicians, Austrian politics are particularly affected by the role of the media. It’s hard not to get the impression that many politicians are primarily interested in the headlines of the most popular Austrian tabloids, with the regrettable consequence that the sustainability and long-term nature of politics suffer.
No one would dispute the view that the world’s biggest problems (e. g. environmental protection, climate change, terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, etc.) can only be solved through international cooperation. On the other hand, the question of what policy Austria should follow when confronted with specific challenges would certainly result in a very wide range of answers. Discussions of this kind flare up, for instance, on the question of how to implement international obligations in connection with a sound climate policy or how Austria should react to threats from international terrorism or militant Islamism. The incoherent positions within the international community, and a lack of coordination between the most important players (states and international organizations) regarding the great problems of our age, make it difficult to achieve decisive concerted action. International efforts to solve global problems have been shown to be highly complex processes that occur within the context of multiple organizations with diverse responsibilities (e. g. EU, NATO, UN and their special organizations). The difficulties of achieving a consensus within Austria on those delicate issues where progress can only be achieved through international cooperation mirror on the national level the international problems of coordination.
This central problem is formulated as a question here on purpose. Within the current context of international relations what are the fundamental objectives upon which Austrian foreign policy is based? Before the political situation in Europe changed, it was relatively easy to summarize the parameters of Austrian foreign policy with a few keywords: active neutrality policy, active “neighborhood policy” (policy of good relations with Austria’s immediate neighbors), a high profile in international human rights, the ultimate authority of international law, détente policy (OSCE, UN), humanitarian foreign policy, and notable efforts in international peacekeeping missions. After the political changes in Europe in 1989 and Austria’s accession to the EU in 1995, Austrian foreign policy has not really been successful in acquiring a new image that takes these fundamental changes into account. Is there a “distinguishing feature” of Austrian foreign policy, and if so, how is it defined? We have departed from an active neutrality policy, certainly at least since Austria’s entry into the EU and our acceptance of the obligations deriving from the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Our commitment to international peacekeeping efforts is appreciated these days in the Balkans (EUFOR), but the withdrawal of the Austrian troops from the Golan Heights (UNDOF mission) has significantly damaged Austria’s reputation as an especially active participant in the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. As far as Austria’s policy in her immediate neighborhood is concerned, her role in the Balkan region is assessed positively. Foreign Minister Mock’s commitment to stability in the region, (which was continued by his successors), and Austria’s steadfast advocacy of a European perspective for all successor states of Yugoslavia as well as for Albania with the goal of their accession to the EU, still gains international attention. The diplomatic and security-oriented involvement in the Balkan region (e. g. notable Austrian participation in EUFOR) can be identified as a commitment in an area where Austria pursues a clear strategy today, even if with extremely modest resources.
However, less clear are the ways in which Austrian foreign policy manifests itself in other areas: for instance, within the EU Austria has hardly ever come forward with interesting suggestions capable of winning a majority. Rather, the impression is often given that Austria merely “swims along” in the mainstream of EU positions within the context of the CFSP, and leaves leadership on key issues to the other member states. It has also been observed that Austria’s representatives in Brussels frequently react to the positions of other countries instead of coming forward with their own suggestions. But “reaction instead of action” should not be the guiding principle of Austria’s foreign policy. We are convinced that it would be quite possible to shape a clear role for Austria in the EU and in the world.
For a relatively small country such as Austria located at the crossroads of various languages and cultures since her inception and positioned on the border between East and West for many years, an active, cautious, and peace-oriented foreign policy has existential significance. If nothing else history has taught us this. It is not enough to merely react because it is usually too late by then. In this age of globalization Austria must provide “added value” for the international community. In the words of former Federal President and Foreign Minister Rudolf Kirchschläger: “If a state has no function within the community of nations, its existence is permanently in danger.” It seems to us that this insight has been lost to many politicians in Austria over the last years. We are convinced that foreign policy requires vision for only vision can move people. Ours is that of a peaceful world based on solidarity. Peace is not a static concept – maintaining it requires tireless efforts. An active result-oriented approach to global problems is not only a moral obligation; it is also in our own best interests. One single, conclusive “grand coup” will not succeed in any field; painstaking, consistent, and detailed legwork is required. Foreign policy offers itself as a tool to achieve lasting results. It must only be used with a clear purpose.
We have written this book in order to create interest in this tool.
Those of us who have lived in Austria in peace for the last 70 years cannot imagine the extent of destruction and fear that existed in 1945. On May 8, 1945 the Second World War came to an end with the surrender of the Third Reich. The result for Austria was devastating: 250,000 Austrians who had been drafted into the German Armed Forces never returned, over 65,000 Jewish Austrians had been murdered, and approximately 32,000 Austrians had died in Gestapo prisons or concentration camps. The cities were largely destroyed. In Vienna, St. Stephan’s Cathedral had been gutted by fire, and the Opera and the National Theater were severely damaged. The infrastructure had collapsed: trams seldom ran, if at all; rubble had to be removed from the streets; train services were disabled. In addition, there was a famine (with people buying up everything they could from local farmers, or obtaining it through barter), a harsh winter struck and people froze without fuel for heating or warm clothing. One hundred thousand homes were partially destroyed, and 76,000 totally destroyed. There was rampant unemployment, and a seemingly never-ending stream of refugees poured in from the East. In the Soviet-occupied zones, there was kidnapping, robbery and rape.
At the Moscow Conference in the fall of 1943 the Allies had already decided to restore Austria’s independence. On April 27, 1945 the political parties SPÖ (then: Socialist Party, today: Social Democratic Party of Austria), ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) and KPÖ (Communist Party of Austria) published a Declaration of Independence restoring the democratic Republic of Austria and declaring the “Anschluss” (the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany) null and void. On the same day the Soviet Union recognized the Provisional State Government (a government formed by the SPÖ, ÖVP and KPÖ) headed by State Chancellor (=Federal Chancellor) Renner. The government was only recognized by the Western powers after members from the western provinces had joined it. On May 13, it was decided to readopt the Federal Constitution of 1920, as amended in 1929 (this was the last constitution jointly adopted by the conservative and social democratic camps).
On the basis of a British suggestion Austria was divided into four zones: Tyrol and Vorarlberg formed the French zone, Salzburg and Upper Austria (with the exception of the Mühlviertel) the American zone, East Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria the British zone, and Lower Austria and Burgenland as well as the Mühlviertel the Soviet zone. Vienna itself was also divided into four zones. The first district of the capital was declared an international sector whose administration was handed over to one of the occupying powers each month in rotation. There were checkpoints between the zones. At a few of them, delousing took place.
The “First Control Agreement” of July 4, 1945 gave every Allied power the right to veto laws passed by the Austrian Parliament. The “Second Control Agreement” of June 28, 1946, in force until the day when the Austrian State Treaty entered into force in 1955, revoked the general veto power of the Allies: instead the consent of the Allied Council was deemed to be granted unless the Council objected unanimously within 31 days. This regulation was extremely advantageous for Austria by immediately expanding the parliament’s and the government’s ability to act. The most important and pressing tasks consisted of gradually restoring the infrastructure, solving supply problems and reconstructing the administration of the state. This included developing an autonomous Austrian economy (i.e. independent from Germany), as well as a financial and banking system: to achieve this Austria had to be released from affiliation with the monetary area of the German Mark and two important nationalization laws had to be passed, not for ideological reasons but in order to shield former Austrian companies that had been expropriated by Nazi Germany from Allied reparation demands. However, only with the help of the Marshall Plan (see Chapter 4) was a substantial stabilization of the Austrian economy achieved.
Despite continuous shootings and looting the governmental institutions were rebuilt surprisingly quickly. Since the civil service had been purged of opponents of the “Anschluss” in 1938, there were enough experienced and politically “clean” officials available in 1945 who offered their services immediately.
In order to represent Austria’s interests internationally in an efficient manner a functioning foreign service was needed as quickly as possible. At the outset the Foreign Service was established as a section of the Federal Chancellery, as had been the case between 1923 and 1938. On April 16, 1945 a meeting took place in the Federal Chancellery attended by approximately 30 to 40 senior officials including well-known personalities who had been dismissed or retired by the Nazis in 1938. Most of them were now readmitted into the newly created diplomatic service, including a future ambassador in Moscow, Norbert Bischoff, as well as the future Secretaries-General Heinrich Wildner, Josef Schöner and Karl Wildmann, to name but a few. Their first major task was to ensure the restoration of the partially destroyed office locations on the Ballhausplatz. On April 30, Karl Renner appointed Heinrich Wildner who had started his career in the consular service of the monarchy, as Secretary General of the Foreign Service.
The diplomats who (re-)joined the service, were rather traditional: almost all of them had studied law, they were mostly conservative, there were many aristocrats and no women. Having said that there were exceptions, such as the inventive Karl Hartl, later the first Austrian representative in Israel and ambassador in Turkey who despite his humble origins, socialist leanings and lack of fluent English, was accepted on the recommendation of his conservative colleagues due to his organizational talent and loyalty to Austria. What counted then were professionalism, dedication and reliability.
The diplomats developed Austria’s foreign policy doctrine based on the Theory of Occupation which maintained that, from a legal standpoint, Austria had not ceased to exist in the “Anschluss” period. This theory was also maintained by the Allies. The contrasting Theory of Annexation, taking the legal demise of Austria after the Anschluss as its starting point, was only a theoretical exercise after all, since there had been no international recognition of an annexation of Austria. Moreover, the Theory of Occupation excluded reparations and was therefore in foreign relations terms more advantageous for Austria. The foreign policy doctrine was adopted in July 1945 by the Cabinet Council (= Council of Ministers) as the official position of the Austrian government. Over the following months the most important Austrian missions abroad were rebuilt and staffed in order to take on various tasks such as registering prisoners of war and repatriating them, signing credit agreements in order to obtain foreign exchange, but also purchasing office buildings and restoring contacts with local Austrian associations.
The Foreign Service continued to work as a section of the Federal Chancellery until 1959 when it was established as a ministry at the instigation of Foreign Minister Kreisky. Over the course of the following years the ministry expanded to occupy up to six different locations in addition to the Ballhausplatz. In 2005 the Ministry for European and International Affairs, as it was called then, moved to the Minoritenplatz. Today, its name has been changed to the Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.
On May 8, 1945, the law forbidding the NSDAP was enacted and members of the NSDAP were obliged to register their membership. National Socialists who were severely incriminated or who had broken the law were subject to forced dismissal, occupational bans or the loss of pension benefits. This “Atonement Legislation” affected at least 550,000 people. Half of them (of whom a quarter were state officials) lost their jobs in public institutions and in parastatal companies, or lost their retirement benefits. In addition around 100,000 businessmen were barred from economic activities under the “Law on Purging the Economy”. In People’s Courts created specifically for this purpose criminal charges were brought in over 28,000 cases. Almost half of them resulted in convictions including 43 death sentences of which 30 were carried out. Thousands of former Nazis were jailed or confined in internment camps like the one in Wolfsberg under the command of the British, or in Glasenbach under American command. Over 500,000 people lost their right to vote.
The implementation of the “Atonement Legislation” in addition to the previous brain drain caused by forced emigration, escape, murder, captivity as a prisoner of war and death, created a shortage of experienced personnel in many areas of the economy, culture and administration. Moreover it soon became clear once again to the political parties that former Nazis represented a considerable voter potential: for the 1949 election around 90% of those excluded from voting had their voting rights reinstated.
In the following years both the Austrian authorities and the (Western) Allies became lax in their handling of denazification: the USA, which at first had advocated rigorous steps, wanted to prevent the USSR from having the opportunity of becoming involved in Austria’s internal affairs. This in turn also allowed the Austrian government, which was mostly composed of people who had been persecuted by the NS regime, to make undifferentiated use of the “Victim Theory” as a means of dissociating itself from Germany and promoting an Austrian identity. For the Austrian population it represented a comfortable tool for exculpating numerous citizens who had collaborated with the NSDAP and other National Socialist organizations. Thus, any ideological debate on National Socialism was avoided, which, later on, would turn out to be highly detrimental for the country as a whole.
In hindsight it was a clever move that the first elections to the National Council (Lower House) took place so quickly, on November 25, 1945, despite the difficult political and economic situation: the election results destroyed the hopes of the communists (who won only four seats) of having any decisive political influence and laid down the basic conditions for a free and sovereign Austria, even though this would only be achieved ten years later. The 1945 elections impressively confirmed the Austrian population’s ideological, political, economic and cultural Western affiliation.
The conflict between the “free world” under the leadership of the United States and the communist Eastern Bloc dominated by Moscow (known as the “Cold War”) shaped East-West relations from the end of World War II at least until the beginning of the policy of détente in Europe at the beginning of the 1970s (1945–1972). The conflict between the two power blocs was not only limited to the military arena but touched all areas of politics and of the economy. It also played out as an ideological conflict between the Western democracies and the communist system. Between the two German states, the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) and the GDR (German Democratic Republic), the new policies toward the Eastern Block (“Ostpolitik”) under Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt brought about a notable improvement in intra-German relations in 1972 through the conclusion of the “Basic Treaty” and thereby a general easing of tension in East-West relations. The bipolar world order came to an end with the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. With these developments the international context which had defined the Cold War disappeared.
In the political calculations of both superpowers Austria was an important factor from the beginning of the Cold War right up until its end because of her strategic position on the border between the “free world” and the communist eastern bloc. In this region full of tensions Austria’s foreign policy was repeatedly confronted with crises and situations that seemed to seriously threaten her independence (e. g. the Hungarian Crisis in 1956 and the end of the Prague Spring in 1968). The tense relationship between the superpowers during the Cold War determined the fate of the Second Republic until the beginning of the negotiations for EU accession in 1989.
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