Austria’s coalition government has vowed to ban Muslim face-covering veils and to restrict eastern European workers’ access to the labour market.
They are part of a package of policies agreed after five days of talks between the centrist Social Democratic Party (SPO) and its junior ruling partner the conservative People’s Party.(OVP)
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern expressed a reluctance at some of the new policies demanded by his conservative partners:
“We have we accepted the ban on full Muslim face veils. This is deal which was not easy for us. There are pros and cons. But is necessary for a joint government to agree on a course of action”
On the other hand Ausrita’s conservative Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz took to social media expressing his satisfaction with the so-called burka ban which the Social Democrats has previously blocked.
“These symbols of the “counter-society like full veils – such as the Burqa and Niqab – or even where the Koran is distributed by Salafists … these will be banned.” said Kurz.
The 35-page programme also includes beefing up surveillance and security measures, obliging migrants granted the right to stay to sign an “integration contract” and a “statement of values”.
There are also measures promising to lower taxes and non-wage labour costs and to create 70,000 new jobs.
Many of the measures set out in the programme must be hammered out in detail and receive parliamentary approval before they can come into force.
With a parliamentary election due next year, Chancellor Kern hopes the package will provide fresh impetus to an eight-month-old coalition which has bee described as “ineffective” by critics.
It is also designed to counter the rise of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO). The anti-Islam FPO has topped opinion polls for months, boosted by the influx of more than a million migrants into Europe in the past two years and concerns over their impact on jobs and security. Last month the FPO candidate came close to winning Austria’s presidential election.