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|Wednesday, July 05, 2000, updated at 13:59(GMT+8)|
Austria to Hold Referendum on EU SanctionsAustrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel announced a plan Tuesday evening to hold a nationwide referendum on the European Union's sanctions against the country.
Schuessel said that the decision to hold the referendum was reached after six hours of discussion by the coalition government comprising the Freedom Party and the People's Party. He said if the EU would not lift its sanctions in the fall, the national referendum will be held in October or November.
In the plan, the Austrian coalition government also asked the EU to ensure equal rights and duties of all EU member countries and guarantee basic rights on electing their governments and opposed the attempts of a few big countries to dominate other countries.
Since the far-right Freedom Party joined the coalition government, 14 EU member countries began to impose sanctions on Austria in February. At the end of June, the EU decided to keep the sanctions.
The idea for a referendum was first proposed by former leader of the Freedom Party, Joerg Haider, in April, but it was opposed by the People's Party. Since the sanctions continue, specially when France, a main proponent of sanctions against Austria, took over the EU's rotating presidency on July 1, the People's Party changed its attitude. In May the Austrian government worked out an 18-point policy including the plebiscite.
The decision to hold the referendum aims to exert pressure on the EU. But other Austrian parties are against the decision.
Austrian President Thomas Klestil said that he was afraid the referendum would instigate anti-EU emotion in his country.
Austrian opposition parties said the plebiscite could not help lift the sanctions, but only waste money.
Portugal's foreign minister warned last month that the referendum means suicide.
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