Austria coalition government to crack down on pollution, Muslims

austria coalition government
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The new coalition government of Austria will see a compromise between policies promoting climate action and those targeting young Muslims.

The Green party and the People’s Party of Austria have negotiated a coalition deal allowing them to form a joint government, following the breakdown of a previous coalition between the People’s Party and the far right Freedom Party after a corruption scandal involving Freedom Party MPs in May 2019. The coalition has released the full text of its partnership deal, which includes provisions banning girls from wearing headscarves in school until the age of 14; as well as a proposed initiative to take individuals believed to be ‘potentially dangerous’ into ‘preventive custody’ even if they have not committed a crime. Corporate tax rates will be cut; and families with children will receive a higher annual tax break.

Austrian girls are already subject to a headscarf ban in schools before the age of 10 through a policy implemented by the People’s Party-Freedom Party coalition; while the new measure on preventive custody was initially proposed while the coalition with the Freedom Party was in effect. Werner Kogler, leader of the left-leaning Green party, defended the party’s compromises on religious freedom and human rights, on the grounds saying: “The Greens have only this possibility to put into effect what they…were elected for.”

Despite the party’s status as the coalition’s junior partner, the Greens have negotiated a series of measures promoting sustainability and climate action as part of their debut in government. The coalition has announced its commitment to making Austria fully carbon neutral by 2040 and to draw 100% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The coalition has pledged €1bn for improvements to Austria’s public transport networks, with particular focus on expanding services in urban regions; and a further €1bn to ensure public transport is made available across the country, particularly in rural areas. The current system of implementing flexible taxation rates on international flights will by replaced by a flat rate; and heavy duty vehicles which produce high levels of emissions will be subject to increased road tolls.

People’s Party chairman and incoming Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz told attendees at the launch event for the coalition’s deal: “We have very intentionally united the best of both worlds…it is possible for the Greens to keep their main campaign pledges and for us [to do the same].”

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