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news 02 Oct 17

Austrian Rightist Leader Backs Bosnian Serb Independence

The leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party has said both Serbs and Croats in Bosnia have a right to self-determination.

BIRN
Photo: Heinz-Christina Strache Facebook page

The international community should stop using force to keep Bosnia and Herzegovina artificially alive and allows its peoples self-determination, Heinz-Christina Strache, a leader of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria, FPO, said in an interview.

Speaking to Radio Television Republika Srpska, RTRS, the public broadcaster in Bosnia’s mainly Serbian entity, he said: “Serbs and Croats in BiH should have the right to self-determination and this right should not be denied to anyone.”

The Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant party is best known for its anti-Muslim views. Strache recently advocated a ban on what he called “fascistic Islam”.

In the interview for the RTRS on Friday, Strache insisted that radical Islamic groups posed a danger to Bosnia, where about half the population is Muslim. He said the country was not capable of solving this problem itself.

“Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but Muslims are behind all the terrorist attacks that have been committed in Europe in the last few years,” Strache said.

Strache said he had very good relations with RS President Milorad Dodik and his ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, although the FPO is on the right while Dodik's SNSD belongs nominally to the left.

The FPO is hoping to perform strongly in the next Austrian parliamentary elections due in mid-October.

According to latest polls, the FPO is running neck and neck with Social Democrats, with each party on about 24 per cent, behind the Conservative Austrian Peoples Party, OVP, which has a rating of about 33 percent.

The FPO has long taken a pro-Russia stance, calling for an end to European Union sanctions against Moscow imposed over the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. It has denied allegations that it receives funding from Moscow.

“It is not in the EU's interest to impose sanctions on Russia but to cooperate with Moscow. The joint economy of Russia and the EU would represent a significant force in the world. While cooperation on the military plan would contribute to the security of Europe,” Strache said.

The FPO was founded in 1956 by the Anton Reinthaller, a former Nazi functionary and SS officer. In the early years, the FPO was a moderate conservative political party butb it pivoted to the right with the election of Joerg Haider as leader in the Nineties.

Strache took over the leadership in 2005. Under him, the FPO has gained more support with its Eurosceptic, anti-immigration and anti-Muslim message.

It has received a boost following the strong showing of the Alternative for Germany, AfD, which won 13 per cent of the vote in the recent German elections.

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