Fritz VERZETNITSCH: POSITION ON THE POLITICAL SITUATION

On the Assessment:
With respect to the present political situation in Austria and the massive criticism voiced abroad, the President of the Austrian Trade Union Federation, Fritz Verzetnitsch, comments:
The majority of the electorate (three quarters) did not vote for the FPÖ (Austria’s Freedom Party).
FPÖ-voters cannot be generally categorized as right-wing radicals. To insinuate that Austria and her people are anti-democratic in their views or show an attitude that does not respect human rights is wrong.
This assessment is not meant to apologize for or defend the behaviour of political representatives such as that of party leader Haider or of other FPÖ officials.
On the contrary, they often give cause for protest.

Their behaviour has repeatedly been condemned severely by many people and organisations - such as for instance the trade unions - in Austria.
It cannot be denied therefore that the attitude of the Austrian people is characterised by clearly democratic views.
An indiscriminate criticism of Austria, regardless of whoever voices it, cannot be accepted but must be clearly repudiated.
In doing so we do not repudiate the criticism of the attitude and behaviour of officials of the FPÖ.
Here, criticism and repudiation is clearly appropriate in many cases. This assessment can be altered only by the FPÖ itself and only by a radically changed and convincingly democratic behaviour.
The behaviour of the FPÖ must not lead to a categorization by foreign countries of Austria and her people as being radically right-wing and to permit their being taken hostage by that party.

The attitude of the trade unions:
The Austrian Trade Union Federation and its trade unions in Austria are non-partisan, however, they support the "fight against fascism, any reaction and any totalitarian efforts”.
The ÖGB (Austrian Trade Union Federation) and its trade unions are an independent force in Austria with a clear declaration of loyalty and active action for an improvement of the standard of living of workers and employees in Austria and for the observance of human rights and international solidarity.
Being free trade unions, they are independent of the state, entrepreneurs and political parties. They judge every government by what it is prepared to do for workers and employees.
Neither is the ÖGB an opposition party nor is it part of the state or its administration. Its task is not to make things difficult for the government, nor to help it govern.
The cooperation of all workers and employees in the trade unions, regardless of their respective political or ideological orientation, is the true strength which has to be preserved at any rate.
To use this concerted force where the safeguarding of democracy and the economic and social rights of the working population are concerned, is our mandate.
As a future-oriented organisation we must do everything in our power to take government and employers on a path that guarantees a humane and democratic basis for the continued advancement of our country and its economy - as part of a humane and solidary world order.

ÖGB, 02. Februar 2000

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