Is Small Still Beautiful? The Case of Austria

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Small states are often perceived to be particularly suited to take on the role of mediators and facilitators in international disputes. The case of Austria is peculiar in this regard insofar as the emergence of a ‘typical’ small state attitude in international affairs indeed coincided with the establishment of the country as a small nation in 1945. Throughout the Cold War, Austria developed an active and value-based foreign policy which heavily emphasized international law. Austrian political leaders, foremost the Social Democrat Bruno Kreisky, established a global reputation for their country as a benevolent mediator, for example in the Middle East. This attitude has been intrinsically linked to the country's neutral status, which has been formally preserved until today but has lost much of its substance and practical importance. This paper discusses the historical and normative foundations of Austria's small state identity and asks to what extent the glorious reputation of the past has been preserved. The paper argues that European and transatlantic integration as well as a number of domestic factors have substantially diminished Austria's role as a ‘natural born’ peacemaker on the global stage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-297
JournalSwiss Political Science Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


  • Austria
  • Neutrality
  • Security
  • Small states
  • Internationalism


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