Austria Update Feb 2016
From LI Austria contact Andrew Tomlinson
I have recently become the LI contact point in Austria, and I am very pleased to take on this position, I have been a Labour supporter for over 40 years now. The first actions I took were to contact the British Embassy here in Vienna, I met with the Political Officer and the press and public affairs officer, We talked about the up coming Referendum in the UK, they informed me of the plans that the embassy had in getting the message to UK passport holders living in Austria, that included their web site, work places such as the UN which have a high percentage of UK personnel, and social media. Also we discussed the up coming presidential elections here in Austria, if you have not heard the election will be held on 24th of April with the run off on May the 22nd if required. In the current polls, the former leader of the Green Party Alexander van der Bellen is in the lead, The role of President here in Austria is similar to that of the Queen in the UK.
My next action I contacted 22 LI members in Austria, and I was please to get some feedback, but not enough at this moment to form a viable branch in Austria, I hope that changes in the near future.
My final action of February was to introduce the LI to the SPÖ, the socialist ruling party here in Austria, we met in a wonderful old Viennese coffee shop in the centre of Vienna, called Café Griensteidl. I met with Dr. Gerhard Marchl and Karl Duffek of the Renner Institute, The Renner Institute is like a political think tank for the SPÖ. Attending with me was my partner of the last 15 years, she is head of unit for EU health co-ordination in Austria, and that made for interesting conversation on all sides. One thing that was asked, is could I see if Hilary Benn could come and meet with the SPÖ at their invitation, I made requests through LI and directly to his office, but I did not get a reply, a little disappointing considering the high level that this request came from. Karl Duffek is due to meet with Jeremy Corbyn in March and was hoping to have an answer before that.
In that meeting the EU referendum came up, and they were a little surprised that no matter what, we are going to have the vote on it, asked about the probable result, I said I felt it could be close at the moment but the polls show for an Briexit. We discussed democracy within the EU, the Tax problems with Internationals, and other subjects, I told them that in my view and it is also my partners view that the commission has to go, or become democratically accountable, they were very diplomatic on this issue, as I feel that it was not within their scope to comment on at this time, though they did not disagree with the principle.