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What are the policies of Austria’s new right-wing government?

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What are the policies of Austria’s new right-wing government?
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A new “blue-black” coalition is in power in Vienna, 17 years after the Freedom Party’s entry into government provoked an outcry across Europe. This time, the right-wing alliance between the new Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his conservative People’s Party, and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) under Heinz-Christian Strache, has created far less of a stir.

The two partners sealed their agreement by publishing a programme whose backbone is the defence of national identity, built around 10 major principles such as Heimat (which roughly translates as “homeland”), Sicherheit (security) or Verantwortung (responsibility).

Despite the far-right’s presence, the coalition is “pro-EU” – but with a tough stance on migration and migrants. It has a green environmental agenda and a populist touch in favour of referendums.

Here are the main points of the 182-page document.

Europe

  • Allegiance to Europe
  • No referendum on an exit from the EU
  • Against further European integration
  • More power for national governments
  • Opposition to Turkey joining the EU
  • Develop and pacify relations with Russia

Law and Order

  • Introduce more severe minimum sentences for violent and sex crimes
  • Make the struggle against political Islam a government priority
  • Secure the country’s borders to stop illegal immigration and secure the European Union’s external borders
  • Improve the functioning of the police force, notably with the creation of 2,100 new posts

Public administration and the workplace

  • Increase the maximum number of hours in the working day from 10 to 12
  • A selective immigration policy, facilitating only the entry of people qualified in sectors of the economy which lack Austrian workers
  • Simplify Austria’s public administration
  • Merge several health and social security bodies to cut costs

Education

  • Improve the results of competence tests in basic subjects such as reading, writing and mathematics
  • Send children to school only if their German is good enough
  • Reduce welfare benefits for parents who fail to respect obligations such as ensuring their children’s presence in class or making sure they express themselves in German
  • Re-establish rights to enrol at university

Spending

  • Reduce public spending to finance tax cuts
  • Reduce business charges and taxes by for example exempting profits reinvested in Austria
  • No new wealth or inheritance taxes
  • Enshrine in the constitution a framework for public debt
  • Encourage taxes on online transactions with foreign companies, both at national and European level

Social policy

  • Prevent new arrivals from accessing numerous social services in Austria during their first five years in the country
  • Raise minimum benefit payments to 1,500 euros a month for families and allocate “reduced” payments to refugees
  • Cut benefits for refugees and transform cash payments into benefits in kind, to minimise the country’s attraction
  • Reform the public pension system to adapt it to the ageing Austrian population
  • Grant families a tax reduction of 1,500 euros per child per year
  • Scrap a planned law to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, due to come into force in May 2018
  • Beef up controls on the public broadcaster ORF
  • Commit to building a third runway at Vienna airport

Environment

  • Commit to producing 100% renewable electricity by 2030, compared to 33% now
  • Keep a ban on nuclear power stations
  • Draw up a long-term strategy to ditch fossil fuels
  • Introduce an action plan to ditch glyphosate

Direct democracy

  • Support the holding of a referendum when a petition gathers 900,000 signatures
  • Recognise CETA, the trade agreement between Europe and Canada (no referendum)
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