Austria History in the 1980’s

By | December 20, 2021

The government chaired by B. Kreisky, thanks to the absolute majority obtained in the 1975 elections, continued its reformist policy based on the expansion of social spending and employment, on the consolidation of the elements of ” economic democracy ” in the the traditional social consultation and the enlargement of civil rights. The general elections of May 1979 confirmed the hegemony of the Sozialistische Partei Österreichs (SPÖ), who further increased his votes, while the candidate of the SPÖ itself, R. Kirchschläger, was re-elected to the presidency of the republic in 1980. The socialists thus demonstrated that they had overcome the difficult moment they went through in 1978 when a popular referendum was expressed, albeit strictly, against the entry into operation of the first nuclear power plant built in Austria, in Zwentedorf near Vienna (in 1986 the decision was taken to dismantle the unused reactor). At the beginning of the eighties, the Austria however, it began to feel the effects of the change in the international situation, the recessionary effects of which were felt above all in the large nationalized companies. However, the government managed to contain the consequences of the crisis;

In foreign policy the Austria he continued to qualify his neutrality in a particularly active sense especially in relation to the Middle East question, confirming openness to Arab countries and Palestinian resistance, and to initiatives for peace and disarmament; Vienna was in fact chosen as the site of negotiations for the reduction of arms. A ten-year economic cooperation agreement was also stipulated with the USSR in 1981, while more articulated relations were established with all of Eastern Europe and, while Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany remained the major partners. economic, relations were also initiated and developed with the other EEC countries. This attitude of openness, however, began to suffer the repercussions and consequences of the worsening of the international situation and Vienna itself in 1981 was the scene of terrorist actions connected with the worsening of the Middle Eastern situation. A further source of problems was represented by the influx of refugees from the East, especially Poles, which became more and more consistent with the passing of the years.

The political elections of April 1983 marked the loss of an absolute majority for the SPÖ and put an end, after thirteen years, to the socialist one-color governments. The SPÖ remained the relative majority party while the Österreichische Volks partei (ÖVP) and the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs increased their support. (FPÖ). The Greens, which appeared in two different formations, collected 3% of the votes, but were unable to obtain the necessary quorum for access to parliament. These elections marked a non-cyclical trend reversal with respect to the traditional concentration of votes in favor of the two major parties. After Kreisky’s resignation, the socialist F. Sinowatz formed a coalition government with the FPÖ in May, the first of its kind in the history of Austria. The new cabinet apparently did not bring about significant changes of approach in both domestic and foreign politics, but it operated without strong conviction and immediately showed signs of instability. For Austria 2011, please check

In 1986 the presidential election called on the Austria international attention and opened a very delicate phase also in domestic politics. The electoral campaign was in fact dominated by accusations against K. Waldheim, former UN secretary and independent candidate of the ÖVP, of having been involved, as an officer of the German army, in criminal acts committed in the Balkans during the war. His election (June 1986), which took place in a climate of heated controversy, caused serious damage to the international image of the Austria and in particular deteriorated relations with the United States and Israel. This affair increased the climate of instability and led to the resignation of Sinowatz and the formation of a new coalition government between SPÖ and FPÖ chaired by the socialist F. Vranitzky in June. leader J. Haider. The subsequent early elections held in November 1986 recorded a decline in the socialists, who went from 90 to 80 seats, and the popular ones, who lost 4 seats, a sharp increase in the FPÖ, which obtained 18 seats against the previous 12, while the Greens for the first time they entered parliament and won 8 seats. The trend towards diversification of political forces, which manifested itself in the previous electoral test and confirmed by subsequent local consultations, was consolidated with the entry of a fourth party into the Nationalrat.

After long negotiations, in January 1987, a government composed of SPÖ and ÖVP was formed, which marked the return to the ” grand coalition ” after more than twenty years. The cabinet, chaired by Vranitzky, launched a program focused on reducing the public deficit, on restructuring the nationalized sector through the introduction of forms of partial privatization and on the enlargement of institutions of direct democracy. Since its establishment, the coalition has manifested considerable divisions and a certain fragility of the whole, despite the fact that the two parties that make it up have become over the years much more homogeneous than they were previously, so much so that the lines of conflict pass to the internal of each, at least on some relevant issues such as the environmental issue or social policy. On the international level, the new government seems to be characterized by less activism, at least partly deriving from the still open Waldheim question, with the isolation and loss of prestige that this has entailed. The only important initiative was the request for admission as a full member, forwarded to the EEC in 1989 and motivated by the concern of the damage that could derive from the Austria since the establishment of the single European market in 1992. This request seems to lead to a redefinition of the neutralist approaches of Austrian foreign policy. The government coalition was also confirmed after the elections of October 1990, which nevertheless recorded a sharp defeat of the ÖVP.

Austria History in the 1980's