Switzerland's foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has welcomed the resignation of Jörg Haider (pictured) as a positive gesture towards Austria's European partners. Haider stepped down as leader of the far-right Freedom Party on Monday.This content was published on February 29, 2000 - 11:53
Switzerland's foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has welcomed the resignation of Jörg Haider (pictured) as a positive gesture towards Austria's European partners. Haider stepped down as leader of the far-right Freedom Party on Monday.
Speaking during his visit to the Middle East, Deiss said the resignation would be a constructive move if it had a positive influence on Austria's relations with the European Union.
However, Portugal, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said it did not foresee a restoration of normal relations between Austria and its fourteen EU partners. "For the moment our position remains the same," said the Portuguese prime minister, Antonio Guterres. "The key question is not the personality of Haider. It is the nature of his party."
Austria's 14 EU partners froze bilateral relations with the new government in Vienna in protest at the inclusion of the anti-immigrant Freedom Party in a coalition with the conservative People's Party. Haider himself is not in the government.
Switzerland has steadily refused to comment on what it says are Austria's internal affairs and last week accepted Vienna's request for Berne to be the destination of the chancellor's first official trip abroad. Deiss said Switzerland would maintain good neighbourly ties with Austria, and noted that the new government had signed an accord pledging to uphold democratic principles.
Haider said he was standing down to demonstrate that his party's ministers in government were not simply puppets under his control. He will be replaced by the vice-chancellor, Susanne Riess-Passer, but will remain in the party and continue as governor of Carinthia province.
From staff and wire reports
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