ABSTRACT

On 31 January 2000, 14 of the 15 European Union (EU) member states issued an ultimatum to the remaining member, Austria. If the centreright Ö sterreichische Volkspartei ( Ö VP – Austrian People’s Party) pressed ahead with plans to form a government containing the right-wing populist Freiheitliche Partei Ö sterreichs (FP Ö – Austrian Freedom Party) – whose values were deemed to be in confl ict with those of the EU – bilateral sanctions would be imposed. 1 According to subsequent accounts, the threat of sanctions was intended to make the Ö VP reconsider its plans – the 14 did not, apparently, think they would have to match their words with action (Larsson and Lundgren, 2005 ). As it turned out, the Ö VP did not back down, the FP Ö duly took its place in the new coalition government, and Austria found itself ‘a pariah within the EU’ (Merlingen et al. , 2001 : 60). Its time as an outcast lasted until September 2000, when a report by the three ‘wise men’ mandated by the European Court of Human Rights said there were no problems with Austria’s human rights record and that ‘the overall performance of the Ministers of the FP Ö in Government since February 2000 cannot be generally criticized’ (Ahtisaari et al. , 2000 : 30). Keen to avoid a repeat of what had been an embarrassing impasse, the member states agreed to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach to any similar situations in the future.