Austria moves to formally ban Erdogan from campaigning on its soil

Austria's plans will likely anger President Erdoğan's supporters. Although no rallies have actually been planned yet. [Orlok/ Shutterstock]

Austria’s parliament is set to decide on whether or not to formally ban foreign politicians from campaigning on its territory. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Vienna’s lawmakers have agreed, surprisingly quickly, on legal measures that are intended to prevent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from drumming up support in Austria, ahead of an important referendum on constitutional reform.

In the future, the government would be able to prohibit campaigns and Erdoğan’s ruling AKP party would be banned from mobilising its supporters in the alpine republic.

The amendment will be looked at next week by Austria’s lower house, the National Council.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has approved a constitutional reform bill that would vastly strengthen the powers of his office and a referendum on the issue is likely on 16 April, officials said today (10 February).

Vienna is particularly keen to prevent Erdoğan from campaigning ahead of the 16 April referendum. But Austria’s biggest Turkish association, which is closely aligned with the AKP, has already announced that it does not intend to organise any events of that nature.

Whether other, smaller, associations will decide to do the same is still not clear. But the government wants to play it safe and resolve the matter as soon as possible. Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka is already counting his chickens and is coming up with a draft law.

In order to show that this legislation is not targeted specifically at Erdogan, the Austrian goverment intends to prohibit events linked to foreign policy, explained Sobotka. Legal measures will include bans being issued in line with international law and the European Convention on Human Rights.

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Turkey on Monday (13 March) said it was suspending top-level ties with The Netherlands and blocking the return of its ambassador in a spiralling crisis over the holding of rallies abroad ahead of a crucial referendum.

Events can already be cancelled if security or the public good are at risk. But Chancellery Minister Thomas Drozda said that Austria could not rely on a lack of fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

Chancellor Christian Kern, during a meeting with religious leaders, confirmed his opposition to a proposed ban on religious symbols in public buildings.

Recently, an association of judges called for a complete ban on religious or ideological symbols from the courtroom. But Kern is against such a measure, as he sees it as a restriction on freedom of speech and the dignity of women.

However, the Chancellor is also in favour of a new integration law that would see the full-face veil banned.

Austria's planned full-face veil ban provokes debate on crucifixes in schools

The Austrian government’s planned ban on full-face veils has naturally encountered resistance. But it’s not the only religious symbol that is coming under scrutiny, as the display of crucifixes in kindergartens and schools also faces fresh debate. EURACTIV Germany reports.