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Union washed up on an island of bliss | Presseurop

Only 21% of Austrians intend to vote this June 7th. Europe, with its open borders, leaves its timorous citizens longing for the days when this "small, beautiful, prosperous" land was "an enclosed garden plot", argues Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi.

A foreign fellow-journalist asks: Why are such a disproportionate number of Austrians against the EU, though the country has benefited so much from being part of the Union? And why do such a disproportionate number of Austrians vote for far-right parties? In the run-up to the EU elections over the next few weeks, plenty of foreign observers are bound to ask the same questions. Here is a stab at an answer.

The past few decades have quite unhinged Austrians. After World War II, they had for all intents and purposes bid farewell to world history, the most recent chapters of which clearly hadn't done them much good. The First Republic comprised the leftovers of a multinational empire that had fallen apart in World War I. Later they had half volens, half nolens joined the German Reich, which also ended in defeat. The upshot: Austrians holed up in their small, beautiful, prosperous land. Under the bell jar of neutrality they felt safe and secure from the trials and tribulations of the outside world. They retreated to an island of bliss.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:52:22 AM EST
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