Austrian politician stirs anger with call for South Tyrol referendum

28th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Martin Graf, third vice-president in the Austrian parliament, had called in for a vote in South Tyrol to let its inhabitants decide whether it should belong to Italy or Austria.

Vienna -- A senior Austrian far-right lawmaker was under fire Monday after calling for a referendum in an Italian region to decide whether it should unite with Austria.

Martin Graf, third vice-president in the Austrian parliament, had called in for a vote in South Tyrol to let its inhabitants decide whether it should belong to Italy or Austria.

"Whoever believes he can solve tomorrow's problems with yesterday's ideas is mistaken," said Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, of Austria's conservative People's Party, cited by local media.

Spindelegger repeated an earlier call for Graf, of the far-right Freedom Party, to resign.

South Tyrol, in northern Italy, was originally a German-speaking area and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It was annexed by Italy after World War I and German and Italian are now both official languages.

The Social Democrats, the centre-left partners of the People's Party in Austria's ruling coalition, backed the calls for the resignation of Graf.

The president of South Tyrol Luis Durnwalder accused Graf of behaving irresponsibly.

Austrian daily paper Kurier mocked the suggestion, saying: "Welcome to Absurdistan, saddle up the camels."

Graf has stirred up controversy in the past, on one occasion accusing a representative of Austria's Jewish community of supporting terrorism.

AFP/Expatica

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