Around 600 people have turned out in the Swiss capital, Berne, to protest against the visit by the Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel (pictured left, with Swiss president Adolf Ogi).This content was published on March 31, 2000 - 23:08
Around 600 people have turned out in the Swiss capital, Berne, to protest against the visit by the Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel (pictured left, with Swiss president Adolf Ogi).
The protestors represented a variety of groups, from Jewish organisations, the left wing, and anti-racists. They have been angered by the Swiss government's decision to welcome Schüssel, with whom they are holding bilateral talks.
Austria's coalition government, formed in February, includes the far-right Freedom Party and Schüssel's Conservatives. The country's 14 European Union partners froze bilateral ties with Vienna soon after the formation of the government.
Switzerland is traditionally the first port of call for a new Austrian chancellor, although Schüssel has already attended European Union meetings, at which he was cold-shouldered.
Christoph Zimmer, of the youth wing of Switzerland's Social Democratic Party said: "We are demonstrating because while Austria is a democratic country, the Freedom Party is not a democratic party. We think Switzerland should give a sign, like the 14 European Union member countries, that it does not accept this new government."
Martin Rosenfeld, of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, was unconvinced by a declaration made during the formation of the coalition, that the Freedom Party and the Conservatives rejected Austria's wartime past and admitted the country's responsibility for Nazi crimes.
"We know that the Freedom Party includes people who are close to Nazi ideology", he said. "The party is also against immigration, against foreigners, and against democratic understanding".
The Social Democratic Party had voiced concerns about the composition of Austria's government, but has been largely absent from the protests. Christoph Zimmer said he was angered by the fact that the senior wing, and in particular the leadership of the party had not been involved.
swissinfo with agencies
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