Conservative Kurz wins Austrian vote, but now faces the ‘green’ challenge

Far right FPÖ has unexpectedly lost a lot of votes. [EPA/FLORIAN WIESER]

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Before you start reading The Capitals today, take a look at “The future of biogas in Europe: it’s a local affair” as part of the Special report on “Biogas in Europe“.

VIENNA

The Ibiza election. In May, the publication of a video showing then-vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache from the far-right party FPÖ proposing public contracts to the supposed niece of a Russian oligarch caused a major earthquake in Austrian politics. Strache also openly discussed restructuring the Austrian media landscape in line with the Hungarian model, by suggesting a buy-out of Austria’s influential newspaper, the Kronen Zeitung.

The conservative coalition of the ÖVP (EPP) and the FPÖ collapsed and parliament ousted the Sebastian Kurz’s newly formed government.

In line with projections, Kurz is back in power, as he obtained 37.1% of the votes, an additional 5.7 percentage points compared to the last elections. The ÖVP is followed by the social democratic party SPÖ (21.8%), which had to deal with a 5.1% loss.

FPÖ has lost many votes and has now reached 16%. Sunday’s big winners are the Greens; who did not enter parliament in 2017 but just received 14% of the votes. Also, the liberal pro-business NEOS declared itself successful, as it got the best result a liberal party has ever received in Austria with 7.8%.

Now, it is up to President Alexander van der Bellen to give the mandate to a party to form a government, which is traditionally left to the strongest party.

However, in an unusual move, the former Green politician van der Bellen announced that he would take on a more active role in forming the government and focus on climate politics specifically.

Kurz has said that he will talk to all parties but the numbers to form a government are tricky. Analysts suggest that Kurz will seek a coalition with the Greens and liberal NEOS, but his popularity among the Green backers is not high as they accuse him of having given power to the far-right.

Richard Luther, a professor of comparative politics at Keele University, told Euronews, that it’d be risky for Kurz to partner with the far-right again, while collaboration with the Greens would be “challenging” considering their pro-EU stance and their opposition to Kurz’s anti-migration rhetoric.

(Alicia Prager, EURACTIV.de)

Read the full story: Kurz, Greens emerge as big winners of Austria’s snap election

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MADRID

Sánchez’s ‘enemies’ are conservatives and liberals. Spain’s acting socialist PM Pedro Sánchez has asked all members of the “socialist family” – those affiliated to the socialist PSOE and general party supporters- to unite in a common front and halt the conservative forces ahead of the 10 November general elections, EURACTIV’s partner EuroEFEreports.

In a party rally last weekend, Sánchez minimised the risk of division in the leftist camp and said PSOE has only two strong rivals to defeat: the conservatives of Partido Popular (Popular Party, PP) and the centrist-liberals of Ciudadanos (Citizens). An opinion poll released last week projected a PSOE victory with 34.2% of the votes compared to 28.9% in the 28 April elections. That is when socialists came first but did not obtain a sufficient majority to form a government.

Since then, after several attempts, tough negotiations to establish a regular “cooperation” agreement between the PSOE and Podemos (United We Can) to allow a so-called “solo” socialist executive, have failed. Meanwhile, leftist leader Iñigo Errejón, co-founder of Unidas Podemos, decided last week to launch a new party: Más País (More for the Country).

Analysts suggest that Errejon’s new party could have a disastrous effect, as it could deal a severe blow not only to Unidas Podemos but also to the Spanish left as a whole.

On Saturday (28 September), however, Sánchez said that PSOE is the only alternative to combat PP’s “right front”, Ciudadanos, as well as far-right party VOX. (Fernando Heller, EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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ROME

The Green pillar. Italy’s government is working on an ambitious budget law to tackle climate change, according to Italy’s finance minister Roberto Gualtieri. “The Green New Deal component is a big, radical and deep pillar of this executive,” he said in a TV interview. Gualtieri envisaged expenditures of €30 billion in the next budget bill but the government has proposed no working plan so far.

Fear of US tariffs. Agriculture minister Teresa Bellanova wrote a letter to PM Giuseppe Conte and Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio highlighting the urgency to take preventive action in light of potential US tariffs on Italy’s agrifood products such as Pecorino and Grana Padano cheese, pasta and extra virgin oil. Such tariffs would seriously endanger jobs, businesses, families and entire territories, Bellanova said. (Gerardo Fortuna, EURACTIV.com)

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ATHENS

Migration nightmare. The situation of Lesvos’ Moria Refugee Camp is turning into a nightmare, after a fire, the cause of which remains unknown, killed a woman and her baby.  However, government sources did not rule out the possibility of it being arson. Lately, Greece has seen an increase of migrants coming from Turkey to the Eastern Aegean islands, and migrants protested about their living conditions yesterday (29 September).  Firemen entered the camp to fight fires but the police did not intervene to avoid escalation. Moria Camp hosts more than 12,000 refugees, while it has been built to accommodate just 3,000. Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis urged on Friday (27 September) that regional governors need to share the burden of islands and receive more migrants. PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis will chair a cabinet meeting to discuss an urgent draft bill to change the asylum process today (30 September).  Last week, Mitsotakis called on the EU to increase its support for Turkey so that it can stem the rising flow of migrants better. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

Read more:Riots at Greek migrant camp after killer blaze

Read also: Greek PM calls for new EU aid to Turkey to stop migrants

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NICOSIA

Ankara angry at Egypt. Turkey has reacted strongly to a trilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in New York, where the parties called for enhanced cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean and denounced Turkey’s escalation in the area. A Turkish spokesperson of the foreign minister condemned all three countries, noting that especially  Egypt and any other East-Med country don’t have any right to talk about Turkey’s moves in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus.

According to EURACTIV.gr, Turkey seems to be anxious about a possible reach-out of Egypt to the Arabic world regarding oil and gas drilling in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone, since any gas produced will be processed in Egypt. Another meeting among the leaders of the three countries is scheduled for 8 October.

(Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

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WARSAW

The dilemma.Three former presidents and representatives of science and culture published a letter ahead of the October parliamentary elections. They said the elections would not be normal, but would rather determine whether Poland would remain a democracy, “or slide into an authoritarian dictatorship”. For them, the key challenge is for Poland to achieve a democratic majority in the Senate. They also called on opposition parties to overcome their differences and unite for the common good.  (Łukasz Gadzała, EURACTIV.pl)

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BRATISLAVA 

MIG-29 crash.During a practice flight session of two fighter jets, a MIG-29 jet crashed near Nitra. The pilot professionally managed to direct the plane into an inhabited area and managed to survive. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation and so far, there have been reports of lack of fuel, possibly due to a malfunction. Slovak armed forces are struggling with the ageing fleet of 11 MIG-29s, all of which are between 20 and 30 years old. In 2023, they should be replaced by American F-16s, which were purchased last year for more than €2 billion. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk)

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PRAGUE

Pension reform. The pension system will have three pillars once the draft reform is implemented, Czech Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jana Malacova (Social Democrats) told Czech TV yesterday. Her junior government party also wants to propose the introduction of a bank tax, which might get the support of the opposition, the Czech Pirate Party. Economist Helena Horska warned about the risk of legal entities fleeing abroad. (Ondřej Plevák,EURACTIV.cz)

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SOFIA

Nearly ¼ of Bulgarians live below the poverty line.That’s approximately 1,6 million people. In 2020, extremely poor people will be those receiving less than €185 a month. The country’s poverty line is determined annually by the council of ministers. The largest number of people with such low incomes are pensioners. Bulgaria is the poorest EU country and the average salary is €630 a month. (Krassen Nikolov, EURACTIV.bg)

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BUCHAREST

Support for Plumb. Romania’s socialist Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă stands by her nominee for the European Commission, even after the JURI Committee of the EU Parliament rejected Rovana Plumb for a potential conflict of interest. Dăncilă reiterated the official party position, saying opposition parties are presenting Romania as divided to the outside world. This is days after socialists from the PSD party accused the opposition of Plumb’s rejection. “Rovana (Plumb) still has my unwavering support,” Dăncilă said. (EURACTIV.ro)

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LJUBLJANA 

First solar-powered boat in Europe. On a political level, relations between Slovenia and Croatia are not having their best times but this is not the case for their citizens. Slovenian Saša Mandžić and Croat Marko Sušanj, built Europe’s first sun-powered boat. And it is sailing on Ljubljanica, a river that passes through Ljubljana. A year ago they built a solar bus station that keeps commuters warm. Four solar panels, made in Croatia, are on the roof of the boat. Click here to see some pictures. (Željko Trkanjec,EURACTIV.hr)

State finance but only for public schools. SAB, a liberal party that is a member of the government coalition, will start collecting signatures for a consultation referendum on primary school funding. “We want a clear line in the Slovenian Constitution: the state is obliged to fund only public education. This does not mean that we are against private schools. But if parents choose a private school for their children, they must finance it out of their own pocket,” said Alenka Bratušek, leader of the party and infrastructure minister. The state is giving around €5 million to private primary schools. Coalition party SMC (RE) and opposition SDS and NSi (both EPP) are against this proposal. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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ZAGREB                 

Accession to Schengen cannot be predicted. “Our goal is to receive in 2019 the European Commission’s positive assessment that Croatia has met all the criteria. For us, it’s politically important at this moment […] Right now, I can’t give a reliable date as to when the entry decision will be made”, said Croatian PM Andrej Plenković. EURACTIV’s partner in Croatia Jutarnji.hr has reported that the Netherlands, Germany and France are against Croatia joining the Schengen Area. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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BELGRADE

Fitch upgrades Serbia. Fitch Ratings agency increased Serbia’s credit rating from BB to BB+ for long-term debts in domestic and foreign currency. The increase comes as a result of price stability and fiscal discipline, continuous strengthening of the banking sector, and improvements of the business environment, Fitch stated. (beta.rs,EURACTIV.rs)

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SARAJEVO

Against a nuclear waste facility. The protesters in the town of Novi Grad in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) urged Croatia to abandon plans for a storage site at a former army barracks in Trgovska Gora (close to the border with BiH) and vowed to fight the project.

The facility would hold waste from the Krsko nuclear plant. Croatia was yet to decide whether it would build itw own storage or pay to store its share of waste at a new facility currently being built in Slovenia. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]

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