The new Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg emphasized his pro-European position on Tuesday and stated that “Europe is the central frame of reference” of the new government and a “decisive political lever”.
Schallenberg, who was sworn in as Chancellor on Monday after the resignation of Sebastian Kurz, who was often critical of the EU, because of his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal, intervened in front of parliament and “stretched out” the hand of the other Austrian formations.
“As a government, our hand is outstretched,” he said, then hinted at his “hope” for an end to the “political maneuvers”.
The most important federal political priority for Schallenberg is the fight against the pandemic, as he explained, and he aims to vaccinate “as many” people as possible. At the same time, he assured that “one of the central pieces” of the new executive is to pass the tax reform that has already been decided.
On the other hand, he calls for progress on the “path to modernization” of education and research. In the area of migration, she wanted to “provide generous help in crises”, but “decisively prevent illegal migration”. In this context he pointed out that immigrants have to learn the language, because “this is the only way to achieve integration”.
Schallenberg also referred to Kurz and reaffirmed that he would “of course” work closely with him, with as much “naturalness” as with his government partner Los Verdes. The new foreign minister already commented on this line on Monday and confirmed that he considers the allegations against the former foreign minister to be “wrong”.
The new Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Linhart also spoke in front of parliament and declared that “the critical points” in Austrian foreign policy will remain the same despite the change of government.
These “critical points” are Afghanistan, Syria, the nuclear deal with Iran, Belarus, Burma, Nicaragua and “the horrors of Islamic terrorism” in countries like Mali and Mozambique, according to the newspaper “Der Standaard”.
She has also expressed her tendency to continue to work “in close cooperation with the EU” and to position Austria for “human rights, fundamental freedoms, against all forms of anti-Semitism, for strong transatlantic cooperation and for an open society” and in a pluralistic way ”.
The Austrian Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler of the Greens, for his part, defends the government program as “the right one” and insists on his intention to continue the “mandate” of the voters.
At the same time, he thanked the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) for making “not easy” decisions quickly and praised Kurz’s decision to resign, which “also deserves the necessary respect”. Kogler has also requested that the judiciary “work” and “investigate” independently.
During her move, the opposition parties criticized the new Chancellor. The chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Austria, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, criticized that “she was not aware of her responsibility” and rejected her words about the innocence of Kurz. “Chancellor by the grace of Kurz,” ironized.
The chairman of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), Herbert Kickl, has also condemned that Schallenberg intends to work with Kurz, while the chairman of NEOS – La Nueva Austria y Foro Liberal, Beate Meinl-Reisinger, has indicated that he does not would allow the ÖVP to “drag the country into the abyss”. He also claimed that the new beginning in Austrian politics would be “differentiated” from the previous ones, otherwise they would “perish”.
The investigations against Kurz are related to surveys allegedly commissioned by the Austrian Ministry of Finance, in which Kurz and the Austrian People’s Party were favored and which appeared in a media group in the country.
The investigators assume that the financial portfolio has diverted funds for the surveys, which, according to the prosecutor, were “exclusively motivated for the political further development of the party”. The publication in the media group was accompanied by an advertising cooperation of more than 1.1 million euros. The media group rejects the allegations.
Briefly, inciting to pay bribes is accused, while several people from his immediate circle are accused of paying bribes, in particular his media strategists Johannes Frischmann and Gerald Fleischmann.
As a result of the scandal, the Greens, a minority partner of the Kurz government, demanded his resignation, which finally came about on Saturday, although Kurz will remain ÖVP president and spokesman for his parliamentary group, which is why the media in Austria consider them “shadow chancellors”, although he has denied this.