Austrian Parliament doing everything to appease voters


The free play of forces in Austria’s parliament is now leading to a string of different alliances between Austrian parties, who are attempting to come up with the perfect programme to appease voters. An analysis by Herbert Vytiska for EURACTIV Germany.

With the countless decisions currently being taken by the Austrian parliament, it is becoming increasingly easy to lose sight of things.

The Austrian Socialist Party (SPÖ) and the Freedom Party (FPÖ) have decided to ban glyphosate, even if this does not comply with EU regulations.

All parties are in favour of a valorisation of benefits.

From when there was a coalition between the Austrian Peoples’ Party (ÖVP) and the SPÖ, the outright ban on smoking in the catering trade was revisited, to the FPÖ’s displeasure.

Against the will of the SPÖ, the ÖVP, FPÖ and the New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) are introducing a “debt brake” into the constitution, which according to the federal deficit may not exceed 0.35% of the economic output, while the state and local governments cannot exceed 0.1%.

The FPÖ’s resentment at being forced to give up its coalition with the ÖVP following the leak of the Ibiza video is slowly starting to wane.

FPÖ’s designated chairman, Norbert Hofer, is already openly hoping for a new coalition with the ÖVP. He is ruling out a coalition with the SPÖ, not least because the socialist leadership already clearly spoke out against a coalition with Austria’s far-right FPÖ.

The recently ousted chancellor Sebastian Kurz, on the other hand, is not showing his cards, at least for the time being. However, he is rejecting the idea that former Interior Minister Herbert Kickl would be given another chance at a ministerial post.

Deep personal animosities seem to be emerging.

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ÖVP and FPÖ are taking new steps towards tax reform

It is nonetheless quite remarkable to see the ÖVP and the FPÖ suddenly coming together again to work on what is being termed the “heart” of the government programme despite the collapse of the ruling coalition.

Parliament will now decide on essential parts of the tax reform by means of a turquoise-blue (ÖVP- FPÖ) initiative. Employees, pensioners, the self-employed and those working in agriculture and forestry will be relieved of around €700 million because of a reduction in social security contributions.

However, there should also be relief and simplifications for small entrepreneurs. A simple flat rate is planned for income tax and an increase in the limit on turnover tax limit to  €35,000 for small businesses.

In view of the climate protection debate, ecological aspects are not forgotten either. There will be incentives for renewable energies, incentives for the purchase of electric bicycles, biofuels, hydrogen and liquefied natural gas.

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ÖVP focuses on CO2-emissions by cars

Independently of this, the ÖVP has presented a climate protection package at the same time, which it intends to implement in the next government period. Austria is to become carbon neutral by 2045.

One of the ways it wants to achieve this is by focusing primarily on hydrogen-powered cars. For this reason, companies researching hydrogen drives, for example, are to receive an additional €500 million in funding over the next ten years.

Carbon taxes, on the other hand, are being rejected as this would be at the expense of rural areas and commuters.

By 2025, it is envisaged that Austria will have hydrogen filling stations spread across the country.

Austria’s two major energy groups, OMV and Verbund, have already announced that they will consider the construction of a hydrogen production facility and researchers are also to be brought to Austria.

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Prescribed reduction of party donations

At the same time, SPÖ, FPÖ and the Jetzt party have drawn on the reluctance of the ÖVP and NEOS – both of whom have benefitted from large donations – to discuss imposing limitations.

The Austrian Parliament decided on a double-ceiling for party donations. In the future, no donor will be allowed to pay more than €7,500 per year and no party will be able to accept more than €750,000.

The fragmentation of party donations is also being made more difficult as donations exceeding €2,500 will have to be reported to the Austrian court of auditors immediately and publicly disclosed.

However, these three parties were unable to agree on a provision that would grant the court of auditors the right to inspect party finances.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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