Title: The Austrian neutrality and its foreign policy

The Austrian neutrality and its foreign policy


The Moscow Declaration between the USA, the UK and the Soviet Union declares for the first time the will to make Austria a free and independent State after the war (passed on 30.10.1943, released am 1.11.1943).


The political parties proclaim the autonomy of Austria and establish an interim government under Chancellor Renner (first free parliamentary vote on the 25.11.1945).


Declaration of the four occupying powers on the establishment of the „allies´ commission for Austria“ and of the four „occupied zones“.

14.1. - 25.2.1946

The negotiations with the allies for the issuance of a State Treaty begin: first conference of the special commission for the Austrian State Treaty in London. Between 1947 and 1953 are held more than 200 meetings.


Foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Washington.


Death of Stalin. From Autumn 1952, under Khrushchev increase the signs that the Soviet Union might consider a withdrawal of their troops from neutral Austria (similar to Sweden and Switzerland).


The main committee of the Parliament takes notice of the Foreign Minister Gruber´s governmental report based on the principle: „free from military blocks“. 


Conference of the Foreign Ministers of the four powers in Berlin. Foreign Minister Figl declares on behalf of Austria the will not to take part in military organizations, nor let any foreign military base be established on its soil; Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov suggests the inclusion of a specific regulation in the State Treaty: „Austria obliges itself in addition, to prevent the establishment of foreign military defence posts, as well as the recruitment of foreign military advisors or specialists“. The western powers however would have refused such a formulation. US Foreign minister Dulles in a private encounter with Molotov remarked that if Austria wanted to become a „new Switzerland“, the US would raise no objection.


Foundation of the Warsaw pact.


Negotiation of the Austrian delegation (Chancellor Raab, Deputy Chancellor Schärf, Foreign Minister Figl, Secretary of State Kreisky) in Moscow, that ends with the issuance of the Moscow Memorandum. Austria obliges itself to an everlasting neutrality, as adopted by Switzerland (Konsensformel). The promise of securing the Austrian independence with the declaration of neutrality, made possible the signing of the State Treaty by the Soviet Union.  


The State Treaty is passed. Austria is independent but still not neutral. 


All-parties motion for the resolution of a constitutional law on the neutrality of Austria.


The Austrian Parliament passes unanimously a declaration of intentions - and not yet a law - according to which Austria freely declares its neutrality and demands the government to write a draft for a new law regarding the subject. (Bundesrat: 8.6.1955).


The constitutional law on the neutrality of Austria is passed by the Parliament. So declares Austria its everlasting neutrality, obliging itself not to take part in military alliances, to defend itself when necessary, and to prevent the establishment of foreign military bases on its soil. Chancellor Raab remarked in his speech in front of the Parliament the military character of neutrality and its non ideological spirit, and reminded the intention of the State to create an obligation for itself, and not for each single citizen. On the grounds of historic and geographic security conditions, Austria developed in the following years a more active and dynamic neutrality policy, compared to Switzerland. 


Entrance into force of the constitutional law on the neutrality of Austria. 


The neutrality of Austria is recognized by the allies. 


Austria is included into the UN together with other 15 States. Austria had been applying for a seat in the organization since 1947.


Austria enters the European Council and ratifies the European Human Rights Declaration.


The revolt of the Hungarian population against the communist regime begins and becomes the first test for the Austrian neutrality. More than 220.000 refugees are accepted in Austria; at the debate on Hungary at the UN General assembly, Austria maintained resolutely its position, despite Soviet dissatisfaction. 


Foundation of the European Community: a participation of Austria is not possible on the basis of its neutrality. 


Austria becomes founding member of the EFTA, together with Switzerland and Sweden, and tries to negotiate on an associate agreement with the European Community. The Soviet Union warns Austria that a negotiation with the EC would drift from the neutral course of the State Treaty. The negotiation with the ECC eventually fails in 1967.


An Austrian medical aid deployment is sent to Kongo. First participation of Austria to a UN action. 


Armed forces of the Warsaw Pact occupy the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, where Dubcek had created a „reform communism“ form. Austria accepts around 160.000 refugees.


The first SPÖ government under Chancellor Kreisky is formed. In the following years the neutrality military element is withdrawn in favour of a more active neutral policy, which sets security as a priority in foreign policy. At the same time, Austrian foreign and security policy opened to a more global approach (right from 1968 Austria followed under Foreign Minister Waldheim an active, global-directed foreign policy); Austria started numerous initiatives for the dismantling of contrasts and tensions in the world (North-South conflict, Middle East tensions).


Chancellor Kreisky guides the first Fact Finding Mission of the socialists in the Middle East and tries to mediate between Israeli and Palestinians. More missions followed in February 1975 and March 1976 (such activities contributed to the recognition of the PLO 1980 as righteous representative of the Palestinian population). 


Signing of the Final Acts of Helsinki. Together with the other neutral States, Austria signs on July 1973 the final act.


Opening of the UN city in Vienna, thus becoming the third UN city in the world.  


The SPÖ/FPÖ coalition is created, after the SPÖ loss of the absolute majority at the Parliamentary vote on the 24th of April 1983. The foreign policy of the new coalition stresses the military element of neutrality and moves the weight of the Austrian foreign policy in Europe.  


The Austrian Parliament passes with 175:7 votes the application for membership in the European Community; the neutrality of Austria is considered a positive contribution to maintenance of peace and at the same time it is remarked that Austria may still commit to its neutral approach also as fully integrated EC Member. At a meeting between Chancellor Vranitzky and Prime Minister in Moscow in October 1988, the Soviet Union had accepted Austria´s intention of preserving neutrality also being member of the EC. 


In conformity with the decision adopted, the signers agree on the obsolete character of articles 12 to 16 (on military and aviation regulations) and article 22 clause 13 (German property value in Austria) of the State Treaty.


The law on war material is amended:  the transit of armaments may no more cause dangers to neutrality on the basis of a security decision. Foundation of the principle is the UN Security Council Resolution 678. Austria granted fly-over permission during the second Gulf war, in conformity with the priority character that shall be given to UN legislation with respect to national laws, and thus, towards neutrality. Such action represented a considerable change of interpretation and can be seen as a movement from a “strict” to a “differential” neutrality. 


The Warsaw Pact is dissolved. 


Referendum on the participation of Austria to the EU (66.6% of approvals). At the elections´ eve, the question of maintaining or not neutrality had a significant impact. The Austrian government has committed to the common external and security policy of the EU through the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, and would therefore take part in the construction of the new European security order. Neutrality would be considered compatible with the CESP, and the participation in the Western European Union and the NATO would not be on the agenda. In particular in the ÖVP, members started to suggest a more tight cooperation with the western security leagues.  


The new article 23 F is included in the Austrian constitution; the participation to economic sanctions in the context of the CESP is rendered possible, thus reducing the extent of Austrian neutrality. 


The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe becomes an organization and sets its office in Vienna (OSCE). 


Austria becomes observer member at the WEU. 


Austria becomes member of NATO-“Partnership for Peace”. 


The Council of Minister passes a decision allowing the IFOR deployment of forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina; Austria deployed a transport regiment.   


A petition of referendum on neutrality is carried out. 


The options report on the future security policy of the SPÖ/ÖVP coalition is proposed. The report displays the inability of the government of agreeing on an entry into NATO, as wished by the ÖVP. The ÖVP-SPÖ federal board had decided in April that Austria could take part in new security missions even without being member of the NATO; a tighter cooperation with the NATO Partnership for Peace is however foreseen.


The Treaty of Amsterdam is passed. Austria deposits its ratification on the 21st of July 1998 by the Italian government. The Treaty contains the Petersberg programme (in which the WEU is considered as part of defence policy of the EU and as a mean of strengthening the European pillars of NATO), a common defence policy as well as the possibility of a common defence.  


The new ÖVP/FPÖ coalition is created. The governmental plan foresees the participation of Austria to the development of the European security and defence policy, in an active and supportive way. The goal is the creation of a European peace, security and defence community, in which Austria and the other EU member states could equally participate in terms of rights and duties; an amendment to the constitutional law should clarify that the participation of Austria in further developments of European Security and Defence Politics not automatically imply an assistance guarantee; with respect of such a change of the Austrian security policy a referendum would be held; Austria will take part to the Euro forces and to the European armament cooperation; the option of a later NATO membership remains open.  


The Council of Ministers passes a new security and defence doctrine, stating the de facto abandonment of neutrality. A recommendation to enter NATO is however not included. Chancellor Schüssel announces the establishment of a national security council. 


The Russian President Putin announces in his visit to Austria the will to accept any decision on neutrality from Austrian side. 


The ÖVP-FPÖ coalition´s amendment on war materials and armaments allows the stay of foreign troops in Austria; the transport of weapons through Austria and the fly-over of NATO peacekeeping forces can be conceded without previous Ministerial decision. Exception is made for the transport of nuclear, chemical and biologic weapons as well as the transport of radioactive weapons and mines. Such provision is included in the assistance obligation in the frame of the EU. 


Chancellor Schüssel in his speech on the occasion of the National Day says about neutrality that the old stereotypes, like Lipizzan horses, Mozart chocolates and neutrality, do not have a place in the complex reality of the 21st century any more. The commitment of Austria should be better employed within the participation to international missions, than in some sort of abstract role. Schüssel says also that identity and image of Austria should be re-thought objectively. The comparison of Austrian neutrality with Lipizzan horses and Mozart chocolates triggered protests. 


The Carinthia governor Jörg Haider (FPÖ) demands a referendum on neutrality. The opposition and the coalition partner ÖVP refused to support it.


The Defence Minister Scheibner (FPÖ) suggests in a TV interview – as the FPÖ had various times suggested in connection with the purchase of new interceptors- a referendum on the future security policy (maintaining of neutrality, NATO entrance). The suggestions triggered protest coming both from the coalition partner (ÖVP) and the opposition (SPÖ, Grüne).  


The National Security Council established on the aftermath of the terrorist attacks to the World Trade Centre meets for the first time. It is a governmental commission presided by the chancellor. 


The Defence Minister Herbert Scheibner announces in an interview the will of employing Eurofighter planes in a future European army to conduct missions also in foreign countries. 


The governmental plan of the new ÖVP-FPÖ coalition suggests the employment of the Austrian army in the general spectrum of the European crisis management (Petersberg programme), in stability and European assistance duties. The government should support the effort for the creation of a common European defence and a future assistance clause, a consequent further development of the relationship between Austria and NATO in the frame of the partnership for peace and the Euro-Atlantic partnership, as well as the cooperation between EU and NATO; the security and defence policy advantages of a NATO membership should be considered and the entry options kept on the table.


In his New Year´s speech, president Klestil talks about the re-thinking of neutrality. 1955 was a courageous step for the law on neutrality but people must also courageously react to changing conditions, especially in the common European security policy with all the duties and rights involved. Klestil says that Austria is responsible towards a new generation, to detach from the past in favour of the construction of a European future. 

Spring 2004

During the electoral campaign for the election of the federal president, the theme of neutrality played a big role. In particular Heinz Fischer spoke in favour of Austrian neutrality. 

November 2004

In a decision of the expanded federal boards, the Greens speak for the first time in favour of the replacement of Austrian neutrality with the establishment of an European security community. 

April 2011

Austria sends humanitarian aid to Libya for the UN-operation “EUFOR”.

January 2013

The result of the first nationwide referendum in Austria falls in favour of the retention of the compulsory military service.

April 2014

Austria as "neutrality expert" is a model for the Ukraine, in terms of the neutral foreign policy.

Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Sport / Abteilung für Politische Bildung (Hg.): 26. Oktober. Zur Geschichte des österreichischen Nationalfeiertages, o.O. o.J.; Kramer, Helmut: Strukturentwicklung der Außenpolitik (1945-1996), in: Dachs, Herbert u.a. (Hg.): Handbuch des politischen Systems Österreichs. Die Zweite Republik, 3. Auflage. Manz-Verlag, Wien 1997, S. 715-739; Skuhra, Anselm: Österreichische Sicherheitspolitik, in: Dachs, Herbert u.a. (Hg.): Handbuch des politischen Systems Österreichs, 3. Auflage. Manz-Verlag, Wien 1997, S. 740-758; Gehler, Michael / Steininger, Rolf (Hg.): Österreich und die europäische Integration 1945-1993. Böhlau-Verlag, Wien/Köln/Weimar 1993; Der Standard, 11.5.2001, S. 1; Der Standard, 16.7.2002; Regierungsprogramm der Österreichischen Bundesregierung für die XXII. Gesetzgebungsperiode, zitiert nach: www.austria.gv.at/regierungsprogramm.pdf, 26.5.2003; Der Standard, 9. 11. 2004, Eigenrecherchen.

Last update: 05/2015

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