Austrians launch petition to quit EU

A barbed wire is seen in front of a European Union flag at an immigration reception centre in Bicske, Hungary June 25, 2015 (Reuters / Laszlo Balogh)
Austrians have launched a petition to quit the EU, arguing that the nation will be better off economically if it leaves the union. To force the national parliament to consider the initiative activists need to have gathered 100,000 signatures by July 1.

The petition was started by a retired 66-year-old translator, Inge Rauscher, who has collected enough signatures to launch an official campaign. The plea seeks to request that the national parliament debate the idea of a referendum on quitting the EU. However, to get that issue even discussed, the petition must gather 100,000 signatures.

“We want to go back to a neutral and peace-loving Austria,” Rauscher said at the start of the campaign this week. Austrians have until July 1 to sign the petition which they can do in municipal or district offices.

READ MORE: Eurosceptic Italian party delivers 200,000-signature petition for exiting euro

Rauscher and her non-partisan Heimat & Umwelt committee (Homeland and Environment) argue that Austria will benefit from leaving the EU both economically and environmentally. She also criticized Austria’s forceful endorsement of EU sanctions against Russia, generally blaming Brussels for the economic downturn.

“We are not any longer a sovereign state in the European Union. Over 80 percent of all essential legislation is being imposed by Brussels, not by elected commissioners. In our view, Europe is not a democracy. The European Parliament does not even have legislative powers,” Rauscher told Sputnik Radio.

An independent Austria, the committee believes, would gain an extra €9,800 ($10,900) per household per year, because the country will be freed from the burdens of EU bureaucracy.

Recent polls show that only about one third of Austrians would be in favor of leaving the EU, according to the Local. The idea is championed by both the right-wing Freedom Party and the Euro-skeptic Team Stronach party.

“This initiative is open for all political parties and we expect a broad support,” Rauscher said. “This is proved by our numerous conversations with the citizens over the past months.”