Page 7, 21st June 1963

21st June 1963
Page 7
Page 7, 21st June 1963 — CRISIS ROCKS AUSTRIA GOVT.

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Locations: VIENNA


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From Stella Musulin

VIENNA, Wednesday

AGOVERNMENT crisis of unusual severity has broken out in Austria, and it seems hardly possible that the 18 year old coalition will be able to survive in its present form.

The most unplekoant aspect of the crisis is the way in which all the old bogeys have raised their unsightly heads: the 1927 riots when the Palace of Justice was burnt down; the 1934 civil war; the closing of Parliament

by Dollfuss; the Nazi era-the whole gory past.

And the innocent man who set the whole thing off is the Archduke Otto Habsburg.

For the past 44 years-ever since he was a small child-the Archduke has lived in exile. Nowadays, he lives at Pocking. in Southern Bavaria, with his wife and children. He travels a good deal, and when he does so he uses an Austrian passport issued to him a few years ago, which bears the entry : " Valid for all countries of the world except Austria."


rust two years ago. the Archduke signed a form uf !enunciation of his hereditary rights and of loyalty to the Republic, and this was presented to the Austrian cabinet for approval. The text of the declaration, laid down by act of Parliament in 1919, has been signed by other members of the Habsburg family, who live privately in Austria.

As the Socialist members of the coalition cabinet refused to accept the declaration. no agreement could be reached. and the declaration was set aside. a fact which was published in the official government newspaper but was not communicated to the Archduke or his lawyer direct. Later on, Archduke Otto entered a plea at the Constitutional High Court, but this court declared itself to be noncompetent to judge the case.

This was a crucial step in the course of events, because the Socialist party leaders and publicists consistently refer to the Constitutional High Court as having "turned down" the application; they did no such thing.

There are three high courts of justice in Austria, functioning independently of one another; the other two are the Criminal arid Administrative courts. In due course Archduke Otto applied to the second of these last two bodies, pleading that the government had failed to settle his case. After first calling upon the government to make a decision. and having received no reply during the statutory six weeks, the court found in favour of the plaintiff and ruled that the ban on his entry to the country be raised.


This was by no means a snap Judgment. In view of the complexity of the legal questions involved (too long to go into here), the nine judges shored up their finding with a 32-page statement bristling with precedents.

Then the bomb went off. The Socialists launched a campaign in which they mustered all the political bogeys which lay to hand, and during the course of a debate in Parliament the minister of justice scolded the judges as though they were a group of disobedient small boys.

Finally the Socialists broke the coalition pact by voting with the opposition Freedom Party against their coalition partners, the People's Party. They are arguing that the judgment of the High Court must be overthrown or circumvented by appeal to the people by means of a plebiscite; the People's Party supporters counter this by saying that a high court judgment is final and must not be made subject to revision according to the party-political moods of the moment; that justice is indivisible. and the independence of the judiciary must he maintained at whatever apparent inconvenience. And they quote the words of the judges : "No man is above the law, and no man is outside the law "-not even a Habsburg.

The whole affair is a more than usually violent symptom of the deep malaise of the coalition, With the storm clouds of enonomic regression welling up all round. the men at the rudder are battling over the unfortunate person of Archduke Otto whose loyalty and-even-actual service to his country equals that of most of the protagonists.

The issue is not Monarchists v. Republicans. There is no serious movement, even among the great majority of those who are personally loyal to the Habsburgs, for a restoration. Many people believe that the Archduke ought to be allowed. unobtrustively. to return -though unobtrusiveness has now been made quite impossible-but they fear the rabble-rousing activities of the strong Marxist wing of the Socialist party, resulting in strikes and public disorder.

The Habsburg issue is one of conflicting views of law. and of justice for all men, no matter who their fathers were.

Party conferences have been held, and mutual discussions began on June 17 to discover whether, and how, collaboration between the parties can be continued.

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