1955 – State Treaty and Neutrality
In October 1946 the National Council convened for a secret meeting – a unique occurrence in the history of the Second Republic. The occasion was a report by the Federal Government on how to achieve sovereignty for Austria. Even though Austria‘s situation was gradually stabilising, efforts to obtain unrestricted independence were always attended by the latent danger of a division of the country occupied by the four Allies into a western and a Soviet zone.
In the Moscow Declaration of 1943 the Allied powers had agreed on the reinstatement of Austria as an independent state. The Declaration unequivocally recalled that Austria has a responsibility for participation in the war and underscored that in the final settlement account would be taken of the country’s own contribution to its liberation. Nevertheless Austria chose to interpret the document unilaterally in such a way as to claim it had been a victim rather than an accessory.
Pointing to Austria’s occupation by Nazi Germany, it denied any shared responsibility for the war and National Socialism in an attempt to avoid claims for reparations to be made for war damage on the one hand and to the victims of crimes committed by the National Socialists on the other. This viewpoint was not accepted by the Allies, neither by the Soviet Union, which claimed what it called “German assets“ - mostly industrial enterprises and oil deposits – as reparations for war damage, nor by the Western Allies, whose major concern was the restitution of withdrawn property.
Growing geopolitical tensions between the communist East and capitalist West shattered hopes for an early end of Allied occupation. Hostility between the Allied Powers blocked the conclusion of an Austrian State Treaty, and the country remained occupied territory under the threat of a permanent division.
It was not until 1954 that negotiations were resumed. A new political option had taken shape: neutrality on the model of Switzerland. As discussions went on concerning the position Austria should take in the face of the balance of power between East and West, the idea of neutrality was time and again advanced, at that point in time mostly as a product of practical reason rather than moral conviction.
In the spring of 1955 a solution was negotiated that satisfied the Soviets and was also accepted by the Western Powers, who had long been sceptical about neutrality as a solution favoured by Moscow.
While the “State Treaty for the Re-establishment of an Independent and Democratic Austria” signed at Belvedere Palace on 15 May 1955 did not contain any reference to Austria’s neutrality, the government had undertaken, in the course of the negotiations, to “practise neutrality of the kind obtaining in Switzerland“. Immediately after approving the State Treaty on 7 June 1955, the National Council adopted a resolution on the declaration of neutrality that called on the government to prepare a law to that effect; this met the conditions for the ratification of the State Treaty by the Allied Powers.
The Treaty went into effect on 27 July, and the long-desired withdrawal of occupation forces began, to meet the deadline of 90 days after the Treaty’s entry into force.
The federal constitutional law by which Austria declared “its permanent neutrality of its own accord“ and undertook not to join any military alliance was adopted by the National Council on 26 October 1955 (BGBl. Nr. 211/1955), the day after the end of the deadline set for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Celebrated as the “Day of the Austrian Flag”, the day on which neutrality had been adopted was made Austria’s National Holiday in 1965. Neutrality, associated in collective memory with the end of a ten-year occupation, had become part and parcel of the new national consciousness of the people of Austria.
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- Economic recovery
- The “Proportional System” in Crisis
- ÖVP Forms First Single-Party Government in the Second Republic
- Change at the Top in 1970 – SPÖ at the Helm for 13 Years
- Troubled Times for the Small Coalition
- Stable Government, Changes in the Political System