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Austria: Conservatives and Greens Agree on Forming Coalition Government

The Austrian conservatives of former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’ party ÖVP and the Greens successfully ended their negotiations for a government coalition they intend to form, German-language media reported. Soon, Germany might choose the same approach.

Three months after the general elections in Austria in late September, the ÖVP and the Greens are ready to get busy in a coalition government they just agreed on. On Saturday, the Green party convention will have to approve, or reject, the deal.

Kurz Performing U-Turn

In case the Green party concurs, Sebastian Kurz will have performed a 180-degree turn. Until the Ibiza Scandal in May, he had ruled Austria in a coalition with a partner from the opposite side of the political spectrum, namely the radical right-wing FPÖ. That constellation in Vienna was being criticized in Western European capitals and at the European Union.

On Monday, an imminent breakthrough in the negotiations became evident, when the parties involved announced the names of future ministers. The Greens also sent out invitations for their party convention. This was seen as another sign for a settlement.

These are some of the elements of Kurz’ new coalition government:

  • The Greens will head a ‘super ministry’ responsible for the environment, the infrastructure, technology and innovation under Minister Leonore Gewessler, in case her Green party approves the coalition. She used to be manager of a large NGO.
  • An Integration Ministry will be established, according to the agreement between Kurz and his Green negotiation partners. Susanne Raab, who used to head the integration division in the foreign ministry, will become the corresponding Minister of Integration.
  • Klaudia Tanner will become Austria’s first female Defense Minister.
  • The ÖVP’s general secretary Karl Nehammer will be Interior Minister. In Kurz’ former government, this position was being held by Herbert Kickl, a controversial FPÖ figure who even disagreed with Austria’s constitution.
  • The independent politician and lawyer Alexander Schallenberg will be Foreign Minister, should the deal be confirmed. He is already in that same position, in Austria’s interim government.

Taped in Ibiza

The Ibiza Scandal broke in spring of last year, when the former leader of the FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache appeared in a video secretly shot in a villa on that Spanish island. In that recording, Strache talked to a Russian lady who said she was the niece of an oligarch. He promised her public contracts in exchange for her help during the Austrian elections. She was supposed to purchase a tabloid newspaper in order to get the FPÖ elected.

The video had been shot in 2017. Its publication in German media made the Vienna government coalition consisting of the ÖVP and the FPÖ explode. Back then, in a public address, Sebastian Kurz said the FPÖ was not able to govern. His critics reminded him of the fact that they had told him so long before.

Austria Becomes Case Study

In the following elections, the FPÖ and Austrian Social Democrats lost a lot, while the ÖVP and the Greens became stronger. The situation is comparable to the one in Germany, where the SPD is drowning and the extremist right-wingers of the ‘AfD’ are relatively weak, on the federal level. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU and the Greens are the strongest parties, by far.

That is one of the reasons why whatever might happen in Vienna will be closely observed in Berlin. Austria, the tiny republic, will be kind of a case study from the perspective of Germany.

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