At the beginning of the 21st century, Austria inaugurated a new phase of his political life, the premises of which rested moreover in the previous decade, when the progressive erosion of the consensus around the two major parties – the Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP) and the Sozialistische Partei Österreichs (SPÖ) – was matched by the affirmation of two new movements which, albeit with different modalities, measures and contents, had nevertheless affected the general political equilibrium. In the nineties the ‘green’ party of the Grüne Alternativen expanded and consolidated which, born in 1987, had received growing support from those strata, especially the youth, who were influenced by environmental sensitivities and issues. In parallel, that same decade had witnessed the rapid rise of the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ) led by J. Haider. Elected party secretary in 1986, Haider interpreted the fears induced in the electorate by the economic recession and growing immigration from Eastern European countries, wisely mixing populist appeals for direct democracy with a strongly xenophobic ideology, tinged with anti-Semitism and anti-Europeanism, and thus managing to broaden the social base of the FPÖ, so as to lead it to establish itself, in the 1999 elections, as the second party in parliament.
In February 2000, after lengthy negotiations, a coalition government was formed between the ÖVP and the FPÖ, led by the leader of the first party, W. Schüssel. Despite the moderate program of the new cabinet, the disputed ideological characteristics of the FPÖ provoked waves of protest in the country and worried reactions in the international arena: a few days later, as Israel withdrew its diplomatic representation in Vienna, the other 14 EU member states, al at the end of a lively debate, they adopted against the Austria diplomatic sanctions. Under the pressure of internal and international public opinion, in May Haider, who had no government posts, left the office of party secretary, keeping only that of governor of Carinthia (assumed in1999). The decision by the Schüssel government to hold a popular referendum against the sanctions then prompted the EU to withdraw them (September). At the head of the country, however, the FPÖ proved incapable of transforming itself from a protest party into a ruling party, thus eroding the broad consensus gained. Important exponents of the FPÖ were in fact at the center of controversial episodes: from the repeated demonstrations of sympathy for the Nazi past of the Austria until the explosion in October 2000, of a serious scandal which involved among others Haider himself and his lawyer and Minister of Justice D. Böhmdorfer, accused of using police documents (confidential and illegally obtained) to discredit political opponents. Within the same government structure, the repeated defections by ministers of the FPÖ and the frequent clashes with the ÖVP hindered a coherent government action: in the autumn of 2002, only after difficult negotiations did the two parties reach agreement on a law highly restrictive on immigration. The evident ungovernability led shortly thereafter to the early elections in November, which revealed a serious decline in consensus for the FPÖ (from 52 to 18seats), a significant victory by the ÖVP (from 52 to 79 seats) and a limited growth of the Grüne Alternativen (from 14 to 17 seats) and the SPÖ (from 65 to 69 seats). Despite the electoral results, Schüssel, who was faced with the refusal to participate in the government by Grüne and SPÖ, only at the end of February 2003 managed to form a new government, once again with the FPÖ. For Austria 2018, please check ethnicityology.com.
But the policy adopted amidst contrasts and difficulties by the new administration met with criticism and opposition. Against the pension reform project, which reduced them by about 30 % and raised the retirement age to 65, the unions responded with the first general strike since the war (May 2003), which prompted the government to review the bill in the direction requested by the unions before its approval in parliament (June). On the international front, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees condemned the law (passed in October) which further limited the possibility of obtaining asylum in the country. Growing disaffection with the government and its politics was reflected in the April 2004 presidential election results, where SPÖ candidate H. Fischer won the majority of votes against ÖVP’s B. Ferrero-Waldner. On the other hand, the unpopularity of the FPÖ, which emerged dramatically in the municipal elections of Lower Austria with a loss of more than 50 % of the votes (March 2005), seemed to force Haider to a radical revision of course: in April the FPÖ split, and the majority component, of which Haider was elected president, took the name of Bündnis Zukunft Österreich (BZÖ). As for foreign policy, the question of joining NATO had long since become central for the country. Emerged in the nineties with the explosion of the dramatic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, it had sparked a wide debate that had divided public opinion and the political forces among the defenders of the traditional neutrality of the country (among which the Social Democrats stood out. of the SPÖ) and the supporters of a position now considered necessary in the face of the new international order. In April 1999 Austria had signed, with the other three neutral countries of the European Union (Finland, Ireland and Sweden), the document in which the EU itself declared the NATO bombing of Serbia necessary, and in 2001, following the attacks of 11 September, the discussion on the subject reopened in the press and in parliament, without however bringing the to. to abandon its traditional neutrality.