What was the Austrian Declaration of Neutrality (1955)?

Introduction

The Declaration of Neutrality (German: Neutralitätserklärung) was a declaration by the Austrian Parliament declaring the country permanently neutral. It was enacted on 26 October 1955 as a constitutional act of parliament, i.e. as part of the Constitution of Austria.

Pursuant to resolution of the Federal Assembly of Parliament following the Austrian State Treaty, Austria declared “its permanent neutrality of its own accord”. The second section of this law stated: “In all future times Austria will not join any military alliances and will not permit the establishment of any foreign military bases on her territory.”

Brief History

Formally, the declaration was promulgated voluntarily by the Republic of Austria. Politically, it was the direct consequence of the allied occupation by the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France between 1945 and 1955, from which the country was freed by the Austrian State Treaty of 15 May the same year. The Soviet Union would not have agreed to the State Treaty if Austria had not committed to declaring neutrality after the allied forces had left the country.

Since 1955, neutrality has become a deeply ingrained element of Austrian identity. An opinion poll from March 2022 found that 76% favoured Austria remaining neutral, versus 18% who supported joining NATO.

Membership of Austria in the European Union (or its predecessor organisations) was controversial due to the Austrian commitment to neutrality. Austria only joined the bloc in 1995 together with Sweden and Finland which had also declared their neutrality in the Cold War, following a referendum on accession.

In 1995, Austria joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, but only after Russia had done so.

International Collaborations

Austria engages in UN-led peacekeeping and other humanitarian missions. It participates in:

  • KFOR, with up to 561 soldiers. This mission is alongside NATO forces. Other countries in this mission include Switzerland, even more well-known for its neutrality.
  • EUFOR (former SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since 02 December 2004 under European Union Command
  • United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Lebanon.

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