What's New(s)

What's New(s) - Austria’s political crisis - 10/12/2021

What's New(s) - Austria’s political crisis  - 10/12/2021

What´s New(s)? La revue de presse anglophone – Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Austria has a new leader, the 6th within five years. Karl Nehammer, previously interior minister, is also Austria’s third chancellor of 2021, after Sebastian Kurz, who stepped down amid a corruption investigation and his short-term successor Alexander Shallenberg, just a few weeks in office.

You'll find the script below:

How did the press write about this new change of leadership?

Let me pick up the title used by "The Brussels Times" to describe the situation: "An alpine mess". The political crisis is growing in Austria. In the last 5 years the country has had 6 different chancellors including Kurz, called by the Spanish newspaper ABC 'Austria's child prodigy', continuously dogged by scandals during his political career, reports Deutsche Welle. According to Catherine Edwards, a reporter in the Austrian newspaper “The Local”, this situation is due both to the corruption scandals the Austrian political elite is facing and to the difficulty of forming a government in a fragmented parliament without clear majorities. Its reporter argues that building a good relationship with the Greens is essential for the future of Nehammer's government. For the time being, Nehammer's arrival has been preceded by a cascade of resignations and a restructuring of the government, which has seen its finance, interior and education ministers change, as well as Alexander Schallenberg who has been restored to the position of foreign minister he held before becoming chancellor, reports Heute.

What will be on his agenda in the upcoming months?

It seems that there will not be much change from his predecessors. Reuters describes the chancellor as an immigration hardliner and underlines that he planned to maintain the central law-and-order themes of Kurz. In line with what Reuters mentions, Deutsche Welle points out that the new chancellor is likely to continue with a hard-line anti-immigration stance and a harsh refugee policy. According to the New York Times, Nehammer is widely seen as a well-connected and well-anchored party man, and even if he was known for his hard-line policies on immigration, he has also spoken out about the danger of right-ring extremism and COVID scepticism. The new chancellor has already taken his first major step, which was announced the day after he took office: maintaining the lockdown for the unvaccinated, notes Euronews. 

But then moving on to neighbouring country Germany, for a short update on the coalition negotiations. What’s the state of play? 

Well, good news for Germany “This will be the morning we’ll set out” announced Olaf Scholz last Tuesday, quoted by Der Spiegel, when representatives of SPD, FDP and the Greens officially signed their joint government programme, almost four months after the national elections were held. The Greens was the last party of Germany’s future government to approve the coalition deal. A party vote had to clarify if the Greens could officially approve the deal: the party’s old conflict between the pragmatists and fundamentalists flared up briefly, as there was disagreement on whether this new coalition with the pro-business FDP is climate-conscious enough, reported POLITICO. Michaele Kuefner, Deutsche Welle’s chief political editor stated that with the signing of the coalition deal “The post-Merkel Era begins for real.”

And how will this new government look like, what are their main priorities?

So, the new government will consist of three colours, graphically underlined Der Spiegel: red, green and yellow. The red socialist SPD will hold six ministerial seats, the Greens five and the yellow Free Democrats four. Olaf Scholz, SPD, is inaugurated as the new chancellor. This former mayor of Hamburg, handed his party a surprise win in September, while he was initially unpopular among the party. Robert Habeck of the Greens will be vice-chancellor and Economy Minister, who’s responsibilities will now also entail Climate Protection. The FDP will have the finance minister’s seat, taken by media-savvy Christian Lindner, responsible for the neoliberal revival, concluded Deutsche Welle. With a new looming COVID crisis in sight, the coalition elected epidemiologist Karl Leuterbach as their new health minister. As the person responsible for explaining the science behind the pandemic the last years, he was loved by some but very much hated by COVID-deniers, who called him “Cassandra” after the Greek mythical psychic who just predicted disasters. Climate and digitalisation will be the main priorities of this new government, summarised Clara van de Wiel of newspaper NRC. But the new government is first and foremost extremely pro-European, she stated, their coalition agreement refers 254 times to Europe, and 144 times to Germany. 

Photo : EPP Political Assembly via Wikimédia