Austria and European Union’s Eastwards Enlargement

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Austria’s position towards European Union’s eastwards enlargement is characterized by a certain ambiguity. While Austria claims its vocation to support this process, as a « relative » of the candidate countries to join the Union, it actually proves to be more of a setback than a driving force for enlargement. This gap between the rhetoric and the reality results from the difficult position the country’s leaders find themselves in : they are split between their concern of displaying on the European scene the image of a volunteer Austria, willing to help its neighbor countries join the EU, and their personal political ambitions, which lead them to follow the inclination of their electorate, mostly hostile to the Union’s eastwards enlargement. This paradoxical attitude proves a certain identity crisis in the Austrian population. As they keep to themselves and remain jealously attached to their comfort, the Austrian have difficulty defining their national identity, which explains their feeling of vulnerability and its consequence, their uneasiness, even their reticence, to project themselves into an open and large Europe. – Summary AFRI-2002