For ten days Martin Ehrenhauser, front runner for “Europa anders” (Europe different), the Austrian electoral alliance of the Left, has been camped out in front of the Office of the Federal Chancellor in Vienna. The independent MEP and his fellow campaigners have been protesting against the bailout of the Hypo Alpe-Adria bank, which is set to cost € 18 bn.
Prior to this, he stood up and left a discussion panel on Austrian TV stating, “We can all stand up, we do not have to be part of this. This bailout is a huge crime.” This event was met with huge response in the media and celebrated as a successful move – Europa anders’ electoral campaign had now really begun. Ehrenhauser is currently travelling through Austria and wants to set up camps in the country’s regional capitals with the aim of drawing attention to the electoral alliance’s concerns.
A Referendum for Boycotting the Assumption of Liabilities
The EU electoral alliance, which consists of the Communist Party of Austria, the Pirate Party, der Wandel (“the Change”) and independents, is calling for a boycott of the assumption of liabilities: “Europa anders urges an immediate termination of payments to Hypo creditors and calls for the general exclusion of liability for communities, regions and the federal government.”
Representatives of the alliance state that the € 18 bn bailout sum is needed much more urgently in the health, social care and education sectors, as well as for achieving a successful transition to more sustainable energies. The Austrian civil society is calling for clarification onthe Hypo Alpe-Adria case. The state of Carinthia, at the time governed by the FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party) and Jörg Haider, had assumed liabilities to a criminal extent, critics say. Europa anders sees this bailout within a wider European context: all over Europe banks are being “rescued” and citizens have to shoulder the burden of austerity policies. By comparison, the recently concluded banking union is just a drop in the ocean.
Banking Union: a Drop in the Ocean
“Boycotting the assumption of liabilities and advocating for the separation of business and investment banks, financial transaction taxes and the abolition of conduit banks. These proposals constitute effective measures to ensure that in the future the financial industry cannot endanger a system that is actually relevant, i.e. the social state. The banking union recently adopted by the EU Parliament, on the other hand, only represents a drop in the ocean,” said Martin Ehrenhauser. “It will take more than eight years to accumulate the necessary funds, which is far too long given the pressing situation we are facing now. In addition, EU citizens are facing valid liabilities to the tune of € 1.174 bn which this banking union in no way tackles and which will, of course, remain valid. This is the issue at stake when we advocate for a referendum to boycott the assumption of liabilities.”
Europa anders sees itself as the only electoral alternative to the left of the Social Democrats and the Greens in Austria, and is slowly gaining support in opinion polls.