It should be noted that Brexit made a considerable impact on political rhetoric in Austria, encouraging some and making others more wary of such prospects. Taking stock of this situation, the Freedom Party apparently decided to tone down its anti-EU agenda and stop calling for the secession from the European Union.
Instead, presidential hopeful Norbert Hofer now promotes the idea that the country should work together with Brussels in order to strengthen Europe’s economy and security. However, according to Hofer’s plan, Austria shouldn’t do this alone, but as a part of a regional bloc that would also include Slovenia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
RIA Novosti columnists Konstantin Ogarev and Semyon Dodatko believe that Hofer drew inspiration from Europe's internal alliances like the Visegrad Group and Benilux, which continue to exist despite their member-states joining the EU. Some contend that his concept also resembles some sort of ‘lite version’ of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
"At first glance, this concept appears quite sustainable. The EU is rife with discord, full of dividing lines instead of unity. The interests of the ‘Old Europe’ are pitted against the hopes of the ‘New Europe’; rich versus poor, north versus south. It is a good time to start recruiting allies and form your own ‘influence group’ in order to bargain with Brussels, which is still a bit startled by the recent events," the columnists remark.
It remains unclear whether Hofer’s idea will succeed or if he will actually get elected as president at all. But given the current state of affairs in the EU, the creation of such a bloc would indeed considerably improve Austria’s influence within the union and improve Vienna’s ability to protect its interests.
"The idea itself is quite in sync with the current spirit of the times. The EU is staggering? Then it’s a good time to start bargaining. And who knows, it may actually work out," the columnists conclude.