Austria’s News in English: March 25 – 31
Welcome to the latest edition of MyExpatCommunity’s Austrian news feature! Here we’ll provide you with snippets of the most important Austrian news of the last couple of weeks so you can stay up to date.
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1. Party funding increased under criticism from the opposition
The Austrian parliament has voted for a financial increase for party funding with massive criticism from the opposition along the way. The government parties ÖVP and FPÖ voted in favor for the increase, while opposition parties NEOS and Liste JETZT failed with implementing changes to the proposal. The party support will be increased by two percent in addition to the legally intended 7.8 percent. Additionally, the new regulation demands that the subsidies will be adjusted to inflation every year. Currently, the support from the parliament only increases if the inflation goes beyond five percent, which was the case this year. The parties will receive 43 Million Euro in total, which is 590,000 Euros more than originally intended.
In addition, the campaigning costs for the EU elections will rise from 2.0 to 2.04 Euro per voter, raising the budget of seven Million Euro by 140,000 Euro. The disclosure of big party donations is now obligatory, starting at 51,000 Euro instead of 50,000 Euro. Other donations will have to be disclosed starting at 3,570 Euro instead of 3,500 Euro. The regulation will be invoked retroactively with January 1, 2019.
Source: Der Standard
2. Chancellor Kurz responds to federal states’ objections of €1.50 for refugees
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is reacting to the criticism of reducing the wage of working refugees – who take up charitable work – to 1.50 Euro per hour. His party colleagues, state governors of Vorarlberg and Upper Austria, Markus Wallner and Thomas Stelzer, as well as Carinthia’s SPÖ governor Peter Kaiser were the latest to join into the chorus. The comments ranged from ”not helpful” to”inhumane.”
Kurz has announced that the government will evaluate the concerns of the federal state and then make a decision. He cannot, however, understand the ”fuss” about it. Speaking to the press after the Council of Ministries, the chancellor pointed to a law enacted under the previous coalition government of SPÖ and ÖVP in 2017. The background of this law is that the Minister of the Interior can determine the details of the charitable work of refugees. The maximum wage is 110 Euro, and so far the federal states have handled the hourly wage individually.
Source: Die Presse
3. Heumarkt Project: SPÖ brings inquiry to the Minister of Justice
After the much-debated Heumarkt project in Vienna is currently on hold, the federal representation of the SPÖ now wants to put the property sale up for investigation. The party has handed in a formal inquiry to the Minister of Justice Josef Moser (ÖVP). One of the accusations is that the property next to the Viennese Ice Skating Association was sold to a real estate company for 4.2 Million Euro, even though another bidder offered more. The party is further interested in what happened to the sales proceeds.
In the local council meeting in Vienna, mayor Michael Ludwig was also questioned in regards to the project. Ludwig once again stressed that the preservation of the world heritage title has top priority, and that the city government is working on strategies and tools to ensure that status.
Source: Der Standard
4. EU-Parliament votes for an end of Daylight Savings Time
The changing of clocks will soon be history according to the European Parliament. The members of the parliament voted for abolishing this regulation with 2021. EU countries can then decide to either stay permanently on “summer time” or “winter time” – changing the clocks for the last time in either March or October 2021. The EU members will have to agree on a formal end of the time change though, and reasons amongst others are not to affect the common market.
To sum up, 410 parliamentarians voted for the abolition of the time change, and 192 were against. The Austrian government has voted in favor of permanent summer time. If the EU Commission, however, comes to the conclusion that the time change will have lasting effects on the common market, the implementation will be postponed by another year. Austrian politicians have criticized that scattered time zones across European countries should not happen, and that the EU should agree to a common permanent winter or summer time.
Source: Der Standard
5. Union UFO is threatening Lufthansa with strikes in summer
The union Independent Flight Attendant Organization (UFO) has threatened Lufthansa (who also owns Austrian Airlines), with strikes in summer. If the “total refusal attitude of Lufthansa“ won’t change by June 30, things will result in a “massive strike by the cabin personal”. There might also be earlier warning strikes.
Lufthansa is currently refusing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with UFO, as the company is doubting the lawfulness of the board. The company, however, doesn’t deem strikes likely, as a disagreement between the two parties would result in arbitration.
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