Austrian socialist leader hopeful under fire for anti-EU comments
Andreas Babler faces backlash after a 2020 video of him spouting anti-EU comments was released, pressuring his bid for the Socialist Party leadership just ahead of Saturday’s all-decisive SPÖ party conference.
The 2020 video, which surfaced just before Babler is set to battle it out with migration hardliner Hans Peter Doskozil on Saturday, sees Babler calling the EU an “aggressive military alliance” and “worse than NATO”. His comments in the video have also provoked criticism from within his ranks as the party has stuck to a pro-European orientation over the years.
“The wording may be exaggerated, but instead of discussing semantic quibbles, we would be better off talking about how we can make the EU more social and closer to its citizens,” Babler wrote in a statement.
Serious human rights violations take place at Europe’s external borders, and unemployment and poverty have worsened, which has strengthened right-wing populism across Europe, he criticised, emphasising being “by no means in favour of an EU exit” but for a reform of the EU Treaties.
Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who has led the SPÖ as an opposition party since 2018, recently announced her full retirement from politics after party members placed her third in the until-then three-headed leadership race.
The party’s 609 delegates from trade unions, intra-party organisations and federal states will decide Saturday whether Babler or Doskozil is fit for the leadership role. Delegates vote with a secret ballot, and the leader is crowned if an absolute majority is reached.
(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)