Is Austria a neutral country?

Austrians value neutrality more and more

Linz - 59 percent of Austrians believe that Austria will still be neutral in ten or 15 years. It is by no means the case that Austrians close their eyes to what is going on in the world. When asked: "If you think about the current security situation in the world: Is the world currently safer than a year ago or less secure?" 63 percent say that the world would be less safe today, 28 percent take little Change is true, and only seven percent say the world has become safer in the past year.

This is the result of a current STANDARD survey carried out by the Linz Market Institute in October. What is striking about the result is that the feeling of living in an increasingly insecure world increases with the age of the respondents (from 54 percent for those under 30 to 72 percent for those over 50) and that voters from the FPÖ and ÖVP perceive a particularly marked increase in the threat situation, while voters of the Greens see it the least.

Do more for safety

In the current survey, 56 percent say: "Austria must now do more for its security." 33 percent believe that the security efforts would be sufficient, only seven percent say that you could get by with less. Here, too, it is above all voters from the FPÖ and ÖVP who want more money for the armed forces - the majority of the Greens consider the previous security effort to be sufficient, and every ninth Green voter would even reduce it.

That could be significant for the coalition negotiations, says Market Institute Director David Pfarrhofer. Because the security feeling of the respective parties will probably play a role in the talks. And also that the Austrian population is more dependent on neutrality today than in previous years. The Schüssel government was considering introducing Austria to NATO through the "Partnership for Peace" program, which was already in existence at the time, or whether to join the alliance at all.

DER STANDARD had this idea tested by Market in 2003 - only 23 percent said at the time that Austria should “participate in solidarity in a common security system” - and by 2011 this figure had risen to a minimum of 26 percent.

Trend reversal

Another eight years later, the trend has reversed: Today only 17 percent are in favor of solidarity in a common security system. The alternative, namely sticking to neutrality, was found in the comparative surveys at 70 percent, today 79 percent are in favor of Austria's neutrality.

It is noticeable that the supporters of the ÖVP, which used to be more open to joining NATO, as well as FPÖ voters are particularly strong in favor of neutrality today, while a quarter of the Green voters are in favor of a solidarity-based security system (not specified as an institution).

However, Austrian neutrality has been interpreted quite freely for decades, Austria's Armed Forces not only taking part in joint peace operations, but also participating in the European Pesco program, which is geared towards joint defense efforts by EU member states and the interoperability of the armed forces.

Changed term

All of this takes place with the express emphasis on neutrality. Market has also carried out several surveys on this - and the opinion has been clear for more than a decade and a half: 54 percent say that neutrality has just changed, only 33 percent say that has not been the case. As early as 2001, the same question produced very similar values.

"And if you try to look into the future: Will Austria still be a neutral country in ten to 15 years, or do you think that Austria will no longer be a neutral country in ten to 15 years?" 59 percent say that Austria will remain neutral, only 29 percent expect a move away. This is a striking difference to a comparable survey that the Market Institute carried out in 2001. The then Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel had declared neutrality to be just as yesterday as Mozartkugeln and Lippizaner. And the majority of the population at the time (58 percent) thought that neutrality would be abandoned sooner or later. Only 35 percent believed in its continued existence at the time. (Conrad Seidl, November 19, 2019)