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Green light for Austria's new coalition

January 4, 2020

Austria's environmentalist Green party has approved a deal reached earlier this week to form a coalition government with the conservative People's Party. The deal has raised questions about whether the alliance can last.

Sebastian Kurz opens a red door at the presidential office in Vienna
Image: Reuters/L. Foeger

A coalition deal between Austria's center-right People's Party (ÖVP) and the leftist Green party was approved at a meeting of the Greens' Federal Congress in Salzburg on Saturday. 

The agreement, reached on Wednesday after months of negotiations, retained much of the hard line on immigration and "political Islam" seen under the last coalition government between Sebastian Kurz's ÖVP and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

It includes environmental measures such as increasing a tax on flights slightly and expanding Austria's rail network. But the Greens' flagship policy of overhauling taxation to include carbon emissions was put off until at least 2022.

The deal favors extending a ban on headscarves in schools until the age of 14, from around 10 currently, as well as preventive custody for asylum-seekers deemed potentially dangerous.

Read more: Full-face veil ban: How laws differ across Europe

What else is in the deal? 

  • Kurz will resume his title as the world's youngest leader
  • Green party leader Werner Kogner will be appointed vice chancellor
  • The Greens will head four ministries, including taking on the environment and justice portfolios
  • Kurz's party will keep the rest of the ministries, including the interior, defense and finance
  • Austria will seek to be carbon neutral by 2040, and put a price on CO2 emissions
  • By 2030, all of Austria's electricity is to be produced by renewable energy sources
  • Flying will become more expensive in a bid to make taking the train more attractive

Read more: Austria: Greens enter government for first time, join Kurz's conservatives

Head of Austria's Green Party, Werner Kogler, and head of People's Party (ÖVP), Sebastian Kurz
Sebastian Kurz reclaims his title of the world's youngest serving head of governmentImage: Reuters/L. Foeger

Austria's previous government collapsed in May amid a corruption scandal involving then-FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

The so-called Ibiza-gate scandal — involving a video showing Strache offering favors to a fake Russian investor — triggered elections in September, in which disgruntled voters fled from the FPÖ and handed 37.5% of the votes to the ÖVP. The Greens captured 13.9%, a record high for the environmentalists. 

Kurz, 33, will return to power after a seven-month hiatus and reclaim the title of the world's youngest serving head of government from new Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who is 34. 
Read more: Austria: Greens enter government for first time, join Kurz's conservatives

kw/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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