Members of Austria’s Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) have overwhelmingly shown their opposition to the EU’s trade deal with Canada, known as CETA. But party leader and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern seems to be fighting a losing battle against it. EURACTIV Germany reports.
For months, Austrian tabloids have grandstanded against CETA and the much-maligned TTIP deal. Prominent figures like former Finance Minister Hannes Androsch, industrial leader Georg Kapsch, head of Spar-Austria Gerhard Drexel and Attac Austria Chairwoman Alexandra Strickner, have lent their voices to the campaign.
But their efforts have yielded very little in way of tangible results and despite being hyped up by the SPÖ, the negotiating position of its leader, Christian Kern, has not been improved. Kern, Austria’s current chancellor, had hoped to receive more backing as he seeks to take the fight to the EU and his party’s coalition partner, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), both of which are in favour of the Canada deal.
A nationwide survey of 200,000 people, which ran for two weeks, showed that of the 14,387 SPÖ members that actually took part, 88% oppose the provisional application of CETA, while of the 9,343 non-members, 89% oppose it.
Despite the low participation rate, SPÖ politician Georg Niedermühlbichler said that the result of the poll was a “great success” and shows that a “clear critical stance” towards CETA and TTIP exists in Austria.
Other aspects of the trade agreements that were met with criticism by SPÖ members included the agreement’s investment dispute mechanism and risk of decreased environmental protection.
A massive 96% of respondents backed calls for “maximum transparency” in the ongoing TTIP negotiations and any other future free trade deal.