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News from Austria

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Re: News from Austria

Post  bb1 on Sat Jul 08, 2017 8:38 am

Sounds like Vienna has the same planners as Edinburgh, LL. This carbuncle is what some hotel chain thought would 'improve' Calton Hill and the Royal High School:


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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Jul 22, 2017 9:45 pm

Italy: We won't accept 'threats' from Austria on border security.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has warned Rome will not accept either "lessons" or "threats" from Austria or other EU countries on border security amid tension over the migrant crisis.

"We shall not accept lessons and still less threats such as those we have heard from our neighbours in recent days," said Gentiloni.

"We are doing our duty and expect the whole of Europe to do the same alongside Italy," Gentiloni said late Friday in a clear reference to demands by some neighbours that Italy close its borders.

Italy summoned Austria's ambassador on Tuesday after Vienna threatened to send troops to the border, open as part of Europe's Schengen passport-free zone, to stop migrants entering after the number crossing the Mediterranean topped 100,000 this year.

Some 2,360 drowned in the attempt, according to the UN's International Organization for Migration.

Other EU states, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, have also expressed alarm at the continued arrivals.

Italy has taken in some 85 percent of this year's arrivals -- mostly sub-Saharan Africans crossing from conflict ravaged Libya -- and has pleaded for help from other European Union nations.

But Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have flatly refused to take part in a relocation scheme.

Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz on Thursday urged Italy to stop migrants from reaching the mainland by halting ferry services from the islands where they first land, saying "rescue missions in the Mediterranean cannot be seen as a ticket to central Europe."
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:34 am

Austria jails Hamas suspect for life over terror plot.

A Palestinian man suspected of belonging to the Islamist group Hamas has been given a life sentence in Austria for plotting a terror attack against Jews in Israel.

The 27-year-old, who was arrested at an asylum-seeker centre in Lower Austria last July, was found guilty late Monday of belonging to a terror organization and attempting to incite murder.

Prosecutors accused him of contacting two men in the Palestinian territories via social media apps and ordering them to carry out killings of Jews in Jerusalem.

Both accomplices were detained by Israeli authorities in June 2016, leading to the arrest of the alleged mastermind the following month in the Austrian town of Gmünd.

Mobile phone messages exchanged between the trio revealed that the Palestinian had told the other two men to throw "apples" – a code word for hand grenades – into crowds in Jerusalem, according to the Austrian prosecution.

He also apparently told witnesses testifying in the trial that he was "proud to be part of Hamas".

The man, who denies all charges and said he will appeal the conviction, had already been arrested at the age of 14 in Gaza and served nine years in prison for violence against Israeli soldiers.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  bb1 on Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:51 am

The 27-year-old, who was arrested at an asylum-seeker centre in Lower Austria

Oh, another of Merkel's party guests. At least he's now behind bars.

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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:50 pm

Searing Vienna heat triggers ban on horse carriage rides.

VIENNA (AP) — Viennese tourists will have to do without one of the city's most popular attractions for at least a day. Officials have imposed a ban on horse carriage rides in the Austrian capital due to searing temperatures.

A Fiaker coach drives through the old town in Vienna, Austria. Officials have imposed a ban on horse carriage rides in the Austrian capital, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, due to searing temperatures. A city ordinance gives carriage horses the day off once temperatures reach 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit.)

A city ordinance gives carriage horses the day off once temperatures reach 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit.) That mark was surpassed early Tuesday afternoon, with even higher temperatures forecast until the evening.

Temperatures are projected to pass the 35-degree mark at least twice more before cooler weather sets in after the weekend.

The forecast is up to +40C by Friday and possibly over that next week.   LL
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Re: News from Austria

Post  bb1 on Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:02 pm

Poor horsies, glad they don't have to work in such heat.

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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:40 pm

Austria halts anti-terror wall plans after outcry.

The construction site of the controversial anti-terrorist wall.

Austria's chancellery on Thursday halted the construction of anti-terror walls outside its office in Vienna after critics slammed the government for failing to provide similar protective measures in main tourist areas.

Works began last month to build five large concrete blocks outside the historic Hofburg palace which houses the offices of the chancellor and the president.

The barriers -- each eight metres  long, 80 centimetres high and one metre wide -- were intended to withstand potential ramming attacks by vehicles, used as weapons in terror attacks across Europe over the past year.

But the €1.5 millio ($1.8 million) project sparked outrage among political opponents of Chancellor Christian Kern, ahead of a national election on October 15th.

Critics including the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) accused Kern, a Social Democrat, of double standards.

Vienna had refused to put up anti-terror structures in key tourist areas after jihadists killed 16 people using vehicles and knives in Spain last month.

Officials had dismissed the barriers as "placebo measures".

"Why them and not us?" read an angry headline in the Krone daily, Austria's bestselling newspaper, earlier this week.

"The public was repeatedly reassured that safety measures were currently not necessary for busy pedestrian zones and would be too much effort. What are they afraid of?" the paper said.

While Austria has been spared the major attacks that have hit France, Belgium, Britain and Germany, the authorities have bolstered anti-terror operations since 2014.

Security and migration are key themes in next month's legislative ballot, which is being closely fought between the poll-topping conservatives, the Social Democrats and the FPÖ.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sun Sep 17, 2017 7:46 pm

Paintings of Hitler found in Austrian parliament.

The Austrian parliament building in Vienna.

Pieces of art depicting Adolf Hitler have been found in the bowels of Austria's parliament -- more than 70 years after the Nazi leader's death.

Workers renovating the 134-year-old building came across the four paintings, two busts and a relief in a cupboard in the cellars, officials said on Friday.

"It's not really a surprise when you clear out a building after 130 years," a spokeswoman for the parliament told AFP. "We know that the building was used as a 'Gauhaus' (local Nazi party headquarters) during World War II and we expected to make discoveries like this."

The artefacts have been given to two historians currently working on a history of the parliament building during the country's Nazi period (1938-1945).

The major renovation of the neo-classical parliament is set to last several years. Lawmakers are meeting in the meantime in the nearby Hofburg palace.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  bb1 on Sun Sep 17, 2017 9:36 pm

It's amazing what keeps turning up after all this time.

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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Fri Sep 22, 2017 11:23 am

Austrian bank signs deal to boost exports to Iran.

Austria's Oberbank on Thursday signed a credit deal with Tehran to boost exports to Iran, the first European lender to do so since sanctions were eased following a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers.

Austria's Oberbank on Thursday signed a credit deal with Tehran to boost exports to Iran, the first European lender to do so since sanctions were eased following a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers.

Oberbank said the framework agreement will finance Austrian investment projects in Iran's infrastructure, healthcare and plant construction sectors.

"We are proud to be the first European bank to have reached this framework agreement after a year and a half of intense negotiations," Franz Gasselsberger, the director general of the regional bank in Upper Austria, said in a statement.

The deal was "highly anticipated by Austrian exporters", he said.

"Our clients have numerous projects in the pipeline, which can now be implemented."

According to Iran's central bank, the contract is worth one billion euro ($1.2 billion) and will benefit 14 Iranian banks.

"The Austrian bank's resources will be allocated to finance authorised state and private infrastructure and production projects," the Tehran-based central bank said in a statement published on its website.

Oberbank, which continued to maintain relations with Iran even while international sanctions were in place, said it was "prepared" in case the US pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal -- something US President Donald Trump has threatened to do.

Under the deal signed between Tehran and six world powers, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the relief of crippling economic sanctions.

But Trump has called the pact negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama "worst deal in history", and threatened to pull out if Iran does not face greater controls on its missile and nuclear programs.

Many European banks have remained wary of penalties from Washington for resuming business with Iran.

Oberbank increased its net profit by 8.9 percent to 181 million euros in 2016, with total assets worth 19.16 billion.

It owns a 26-percent stake in the Italian UniCredit bank.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Wed Sep 27, 2017 8:44 pm

Freedom Party expels local official over Nazi memorabilia.

Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) said on Wednesday it has expelled a local party official for hoarding Nazi memorabilia, in embarrassing revelations less than three weeks before national elections.

A local activist revealed that Martin Hochstöger had hung a plaque commemorating Hitler's 1938 annexation of Austria in a back room of his pharmacy in the town of Landeck, in Tyrol state.

Hochstöger, ex-president of the local pharmacists' association, also kept in a display case pieces of cloth with insignia including the SS Death's Head and the Nazi eagle, photos on the activist's blog showed.

Markus Abzwerger, head of the FPÖ in Tyrol, announced on Facebook on Wednesday that Hochstöger has been expelled from the party, saying that a "red line had clearly been crossed".

Hochstöger's plaque, complete with a quote from Hitler, commemorated a 1938 plebiscite when all but 20 of Landeck's 2,766

The anti-immigration FPOe, a party founded by ex-Nazis after World War II and formerly headed by Jörg Haider, has long sought to clean up its image but this latest incident is by no means isolated.

Last month the Mauthausen Committee, a group commemorating concentration camp victims, published a list of what it said were at least 60 anti-Semitic and racist incidents involving FPÖ figures since 2013.

The party, now headed by Heinz-Christian Strache, is forecast to come second or third in the parliamentary elections on October 15th and could enter the government as coalition partners.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:48 pm

Austria claims new burqa ban promotes 'acceptance and respect of Austrian values'.

New restrictions come into force in Austria on Sunday banning the wearing of the full Islamic veil and other items concealing the face in public places and buildings.

Exemptions "under certain conditions" include items like clown disguises "at cultural events", work wear such as medical masks, and scarves in cold weather, the government says.

The restrictions are aimed at "ensuring the cohesion of society in an open society", it says. Violations will be punished with a fine of up to €150 ($177).

"Acceptance and respect of Austrian values are basic conditions for successful cohabitation between the majority Austrian population and people from third countries living in Austria," Vienna says.

The measures, similar to those in other European Union countries, also apply to visitors even though large numbers of Arab tourists holiday in the Alpine country.

The legislation was brought in by the outgoing centrist government of Chancellor Christian Kern.

Elections on October 15 are expected to see the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPÖ) come second or third and potentially enter a coalition with Sebastian Kurz of the centre-right.

Kurz, who is only 31, has managed to steal considerable numbers of voters from the FPÖ, polls show, experts say in part due to him moving to the right on issues such as immigration.

"The immigration seen in recent years is changing our country not in a positive but in a negative way," Kurz told German television in an interview broadcast this week.

Other measures to apply from October 1st include immigrants signing an "integration contract" and compulsory courses in the German language and "values".
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:39 am

Austrian ruling party's number two resigns over smear campaign.

The number two figure in Austria's ruling Social Democrats was forced to resign on Saturday, just two weeks ahead of parliamentary elections, over a smear campaign.

The resignation of Georg Niedermuehlbichler, the party's chairman and election campaign manager, is more bad news for Prime Minister Christian Kern with the Social Democrats already trailing in the polls to Sebastian Kurz's People's Party (OeVP) conservatives ahead of the October 15th vote.

Niedermuehlbichler's departure follows revelations in the Austrian media of a smear campaign against Kurz which involved two websites making unsubstantiated allegations against the 31-year-old foreign minister.

According to the Die Presse daily and Profil weekly, the operation was run by a former consultant of the Social Democrats and a member of Niedermuehlbichler's campaign team was also involved.

The SPO leadership has always denied any involvement in the online media campaign. Niedermuehlbichler himself repeated on Saturday that the party "neither ran, financed or administered" the websites in question which he described as "horrible" due to xenophobic and antisemitic comments posted.

He nonetheless stood down accepting "all responsibility".

Kern's Social Democrats and Kurz's conservatives have been partners in the coalition government and have dominated Austrian politics for decades.

In May the party chiefs agreed to a snap election after the centrist "grand coalition" collapsed.

Like elsewhere in Europe the Austrian Social Democrats also face a rising right wing party.

The anti-immigration FPOe, a party founded by ex-Nazis after World War II, is forecast to come second or third in next month's parliamentary elections and could enter the government as coalition partners.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:56 am

Austria puts the squeeze on refugees with benefit cuts.

VIENNA (Reuters) - Ahmed Ali, a 34-year-old teacher, fled the war in Syria two years ago and settled in a quiet Austrian town on the hilly border with the Czech Republic. He was hoping to raise a family there.

But voter attitudes towards immigrants have hardened due to concerns about security and the economy after Austria took in more than 1 percent of its population in asylum seekers in 2015.

This fuelled support for the far-right party Freedom Party and its candidate came close to winning last year's presidential election. Immigration is still the dominant political issue ahead of the Oct. 15 parliamentary election.

In January, lawmakers in Lower Austria, where Ali lived, reduced benefits for new arrivals. They said the benefits system needed protecting from being overstretched by the influx of refugees.

Ali and his pregnant wife moved again to Vienna in July, where their benefits would still be paid in full.

"Most of us fled when the letter came telling us our social benefits would be cut. At first we didn't believe it but then we saw it on our bank balance," said Ali, who says his German is not yet good enough to find work.

Three of Austria's nine provinces -- Lower Austria, Burgenland and Upper Austria -- have reduced benefits for new arrivals. Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, leader of the conservative People's Party which is leading in the polls, wants to make similar cuts apply to the whole country.

Chancellor Christian Kern, whose Social Democratic Party polls show competing with the Freedom Party for second place, has resisted the idea but said he could support them in cases where new arrivals turn down job offers.

LEGAL CHALLENGE

So far, the cuts have primarily impacted migrants like Ali who sought asylum in Austria when it opened its border in 2015 although some Austrians returning home have also been caught.

In Burgenland the rules apply to all people seeking help who have spent fewer than five years of the six preceding their application for benefits in Austria.

A statement accompanying the Upper Austrian bill painted the cuts as a way to tackle the problem of "welfare magnetism" in the context of refugees. The Lower Austrian government declined to comment due to a legal challenge against the cuts.

In a case brought by a charity, Austria's Constitutional Court is expected to rule next year on whether the cuts by Lower Austria, decided in late 2016 and implemented since early 2017, are illegal.

The 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention says host countries must grant refugees "the same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance" as their own nationals. A 2011 EU directive sets a similar rule.

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), which has denounced “xenophobic debates” in Austrian politics ahead of the election, has described the cuts as breaches of international and European law but no international cases have been started.

A Burgenland spokeswoman defended the benefits changes, saying they targeted Austrian nationals as well.

"Therefore there is no violation of ... the EU directive and the refugee convention," she said.

A spokesman for Kurz said legislation to expand the cuts would be passed and phrased in such a way "that no doubt for the highest courts will emerge".

Austria's parliamentary election - http://tmsnrt.rs/2yVUDsq

BARE MINIMUM

The three provinces have cut benefits for new arrivals, even after obtaining asylum, to around 570 euros (£506) a month, less than half the poverty threshold of 1,200 euros, compared with around 850 euros for an Austrian who has never lived abroad.

Benefits for a household have been capped at 1,500 euros.

Rather than live off less than what is considered the bare minimum for most Austrians, many of those affected have moved, particularly to the capital.

Ali moved to an apartment with his uncle and aunt in a dilapidated building on the outskirts of the city costing 1,100 euros a month.

"They don't care how many children you have. And maybe they'll cut again," Ali said in his living room with two sofas, a television set and a picture of Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.

He found more affordable apartments but the landlord did not want refugees as tenants. One landlady was concerned social benefits for refugees might be cut in Vienna, too.

"Instead of cutting the social safety net, integration and independence should be supported. We fear that language learning, training and the search for work will suffer if those affected don't know how to pay their rent anymore," said the chief the UNHCR's Austria office, Christoph Pinter.

Although the Freedom Party and Kurz's conservatives have been the most vocal about cutting benefits for new arrivals, the three provinces that have put cuts in place are governed by various two-way combinations of all three main political parties.

But most of those affected who spoke to Reuters fear an election victory for Kurz.

"If Kurz wins, it will be a big problem," said 24-year-old Basel from Deraa in Syria. He moved from Lower Austria to Vienna in July, leaving behind friends and a job as a hairdresser.

He says the cuts paralyse people like him with fear.

"You stop thinking about the future."
https://uk.news.yahoo.com/austria-puts-squeeze-refugees-benefit-cuts-061907388.html
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Mon Oct 09, 2017 11:21 am

Austria’s Haus of Cards.

Two parties that have governed together for over a decade accuse each other of espionage and racial incitement.

Austrian politics are rarely dull, but a dirty tricks scandal that exploded two weeks before next Sunday’s general election has left even battle-worn veterans of the country’s raucous campaigns stunned.

“This is without a doubt the dirtiest election campaign we have ever experienced,” said Eva Linsinger, politics editor at weekly Profil, which was first to uncover the details of the underhanded tactics.

The scandal began when it emerged that outside consultants working for Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats (SPÖ) were behind a racist Facebook campaign aimed at undermining his opponent, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). The Facebook pages distorted Kurz’s views on immigration and other issues and were laced with anti-Semitic innuendo.

The affair got murkier over the weekend after a consultant involved in the smear said that one of Kurz’s closest aides tried to lure him away from Kern’s campaign with a cash payoff totaling €100,000. The ÖVP denies the accusation.
More at link as this is a long article with illustrations.

http://www.politico.eu/article/austria-election-scandal-christian-kern-sebastian-kurz-haus-of-cards/
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:36 am

Austrian vote could tilt country right, install young leader.

VIENNA (AP) 15/10/2017 — Polling places are opening in Austria, where voters will decide whether the country moves right after decades of centrist policies and the result could pave the way for Europe's youngest government leader.

Three parties are vying for first place in Sunday's national election: the Social Democrats, the People's Party and the Freedom Party. The center-left Social Democrats have campaigned on reducing social inequality. The other two have focused on concerns about immigration and Islam.

Both the People's Party and the Freedom Party have called for securing Austria's borders and quickly deporting asylum-seekers whose requests are denied. Polls show the popularity of People's Party head Sebastian Kurz has put his party ahead.

The 31-year-old Kurz would become Europe's youngest leader if his party wins and he can form a government.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:02 pm

Austrian chancellor in last-ditch election warning.

Austria's embattled left-wing chancellor gave a last-ditch warning on Saturday to voters not to allow the country to turn right with a coalition of the conservatives and the far-right.

"Austria is at the most important crossroads in decades," Christian Kern told a rally of his Social Democrats (SPOe) in Vienna a day ahead of elections in the wealthy but disgruntled Alpine nation.

"Do we want an Austria where the rich get richer and where the social security system, healh and education are under attack? Or an Austria where everybody has an opportunity?" he said.

After a campaign beset by scandals, missteps and resignations, the odds appear to be against Kern, 51, the former Austrian Railways boss parachuted in by the SPOe as chancellor in May 2016.

Polls put "wunderwuzzi" ("whizz-kid") Sebastian Kurz, 31, and his centre-right People's Party (OeVP) in first place with over 30 percent and on course to become Europe's youngest leader.

His most likely coalition partner is seen as the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe), which may humiliatingly relegate the once-mighty SPOe into third place.

FPOe chief Heinz-Christian Strache, who flirted with neo-Nazism in his youth, would be deputy chancellor, 17 years after Joerg Haider alarmed Europe and Israel by taking the party into government.

"In parts of society we are becoming a minority in our own country," Strache, 48, told a Vienna rally late Friday. "Let's get rid of this...government before the Austrian people disappear."

Kurz could also go into yet another "grand coalition" with the SPOe, but the outgoing one was acrimonious and unpopular with Kern and Kurz visibly disliking each other.

"I'll shoot myself," one FPOe supporter told AFP. More at link.
https://www.thelocal.at/20171014/austrian-chancellor-in-last-ditch-election-warning
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:05 pm

Austria to sue over Hungary nuclear plant expansion.

Austria said on Friday it would launch a lawsuit against the European Union's approval of the Russian-financed expansion of a nuclear plant in Hungary.

The approval, granted in March, removes the last major obstacle to the €12.5 billion ($13.2 billion) expansion of the Paks plant, Hungary's only nuclear facility.

"I strictly reject the expansion of the Paks nuclear plant," Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said in a statement.

"Even the European Commission has concluded in its report that the expansion of this nuclear plant will never be profitable without massive state subsidies."

Kern did not specify when the complaint would be filed with the European Court of Justice, but said lawyers were currently checking the government's complaint.

Built with Soviet-era technology in the 1980s during Hungary's communist period, the plant outside Budapest currently provides around 40 percent of its electricity needs.

The construction of two new reactors is part of a 2014 deal struck between Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Victor Orban and ally Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The work, to be carried out be Moscow's state-owned Rosatom, is set to more than double the plant's capacity.

EU authorities had been under pressure to take a close look at the agreement amid fears the Kremlin was using it to meddle further with the bloc's sensitive energy sector.

The European Commission gave its seal of approval after judging that the project met EU rules on state aid "on the basis of commitments made by Hungary to limit distortions of competition".

Fiercely anti-nuclear Austria had denounced the move at the time and already threatened legal action.

Kern's announcement comes two days before a snap election, which could see his Social Democrat party relegated to the opposition corner by hardline conservatives led by Sebastian Kurz, 31.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:11 am

Jewish group warns of possible anti-Semitic influence if Freedom Party shares power.

Austria's election winner Sebastian Kurz, who may form a coalition with the far-right, vowed "zero tolerance" on anti-Semitism in any future government, in an interview published in Israel on Tuesday.

"The battle against anti-Semitism and our policy of zero tolerance against all anti-Semitic tendencies is very important to me," Kurz told the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper.

"It is a clear pre-condition for the formation of any coalition under my leadership," the 31-year-old conservative told the paper, which is a firm backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kurz's People's Party (ÖVP) won 31.5 percent of the vote on Sunday, near-complete results show, and his most likely coalition partner is seen as the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ), third on 26.0 percent.

Austria's Jewish Community (IKG) organisation warned Kurz on Tuesday that a coalition with the FPÖ could see people with "anti-Semitic, racist and eurosceptic beliefs" influence the government.

"The FPÖ behaved itself during the election campaign. But what the FPÖ says and what the FPÖ does are two different things," IKG chief Oskar Deutsch said.

When the FPÖ last entered government, in 2000 under former head Jörg Haider, who praised Hitler's "orderly" employment policies and praised SS veterans, Israel suspended relations.

They were normalised in 2003 under prime minister Ariel Sharon and the FPÖ's party head since 2005, Heinz Christian Strache, has moved to soften its image and improve relations with the Jewish state.

Strache, 48, has visited Israel several times, the last time in April 2016 when he met members of Netanyahu's government and laid a wreath at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Israel's foreign ministry stressed at the time that it was a "strictly private visit" that included no official meetings.

Anti-Semitic influence?

Before the election Strache wrote to Netanyahu that Israel "possesses the right to build wherever is required in the Land of Israel" and that Austria's embassy should be moved to Jerusalem.

Kurz said in the interview that "it is not the time to talk about such a sensitive question" as moving Austria's representation to the disputed city from Tel Aviv.

The FPÖ was created by ex-Nazis in the 1950s and campaigners say that incidents of anti-Semitism and racism by party officials continue.

Netanyahu congratulated Kurz in a telephone call on Monday night while calling for the fight against anti-Semitism to continue.

An Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity said on Tuesday it was "premature to take any position while the Austrian coalition is not yet formed".

Kurz met Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen on Tuesday afternoon. He is expected to give Kurz a mandate later in the week to form a government.
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Election winner Kurz says Austria 'must play an important role in the EU'.

Austria's election winner Sebastian Kurz, who may form a coalition with a far-right party ambivalent about the European Union, said on Tuesday that Austria would play an "active" role in the bloc.

"It is clear to me that Austria must play an important role within the European Union and when we are pro-European, we should not only stand for Europe but be an especially active participant in Europe," the 31-year-old conservative "whizz-kid" said.

"This is clearly what I will do in the coming years," he added.

Kurz's People's Party (ÖVP) won 31.5 percent of the vote on Sunday, near-complete results show, and his most likely coalition partner is seen as the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ), which came in third on 26.0 percent.

The FPÖ's manifesto says that Austria sovereignty and the "ideal of a Europe of fatherlands" are "increasingly under threat," particularly with the "aim of the EU being a centralised bureaucratic monster".

It wants EU sanctions on Russia lifted and for Austria to potentially join the Visegrad group of eastern and central European countries that has become a thorn in Brussels' side.

Kurz said he would visit Brussels on Thursday, saying he "deliberately" chose the EU capital for his first foreign trip after the election. He is due to meet Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the respective presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

Juncker on Monday had pointedly wished Kurz success forming a "pro-European government" in a letter posted on Twitter, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented on the FPÖ result, calling it "a big challenge".

Kurz could be given the go-ahead to form a new government as early as Friday.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:05 pm

Austrian far right says it won't join government unless it gets the interior ministry top job.

Austria's far-right Freedom Party said on Wednesday it wants the top job in the interior ministry in exchange for entering a coalition with election winner Sebastian Kurz.

Kurz's conservative ÖVP party won 31.5 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, near-complete results show, and the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ), came in third on 26.0 percent.

The Social Democrats (SPÖ) of incumbent Chancellor Christian Kern came second with 26.9 percent.

"We have several red lines," FPÖ chairman Heinz-Christian Strache said in his first press conference since the vote.

"The interior ministry is a precondition" for government participation, he added.

Strache, 48, said he saw "no reason to rush" the negotiations, which are to due to begin by the end of the week.

"We will not enter into a coalition at any price," the far-right leader said.

The FPÖ, whose rise has mirrored that of other populist parties in Europe, is demanding increased border security, Swiss-style direct democracy and economic reforms.

Its leaders have also said Islam "has no place" in Austria.

At 31, Kurz is the world's youngest leader-in-waiting. The conservative is due to be sworn in on Friday and could then be given the go-ahead to begin holding coalition talks with all parties.

Kurz on Tuesday had said he expected Austria to play an "active" role in the European Union -- in contrast with the long-held views of the eurosceptic, anti-immigrant FPÖ.

Strache did not address Kurz's comments on the EU in his press conference.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:52 am

President gives Kurz the job of forming a new Austrian government.

Austria's president on Friday tasked election-winner Sebastian Kurz with forming a government, putting the 31-year-old conservative on course to become the world's youngest leader.

Kurz, nicknamed "wunderwuzzi" ("whizz-kid"), is now expected to enter coalition talks with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), potentially giving the European Union a fresh headache.

Kurz's People's Party (ÖVP) came first in Sunday's election with 31.5 percent followed by the centre-left Social Democrats on 26.9 percent, final results showed late on Thursday.

The populist Freedom Party, highly critical of the EU, came a close third with 26.0 percent, just short of its 1999 record under former chief Jörg Haider of 26.9 percent.

Kurz said on Friday after being given a mandate by President Alexander Van der Bellen that he will now "sound out" all the other parties and then enter coalition negotiations.

"I want a new political culture, a new political style," he said. "I want a government that has the courage and the determination to bring about real change in Austria."
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:02 pm

Austria-Turkey relations go to the dogs over airport checks.

Turkish police on Friday inspected Austrian passengers on an Istanbul-Vienna flight with the help of a sniffer dog, the day after a canine search of passengers flying with Turkish Airlines in Austria, local media reported.

The passengers were forced to undergo the extra checks before boarding the flight to the Austrian capital from Ataturk airport at 1440 GMT on Friday, Dogan news agency said.

In video footage from the agency, certain travellers were checked by a sniffer dog while others walked past security officers and those being searched.

The measure was taken in response to Austrian airport authorities' use of a sniffer dog to check passengers on a Turkish Airlines flight at Vienna International Airport on Thursday, the agency said.

The Turkish foreign ministry hit back at the "inappropriate" checks by Austrian officers, urging Vienna to "warn" the airport authorities in a statement late Thursday.

The Turkish consul general in Vienna went to the airport to conduct an "inspection", the ministry added.

But the Austrian finance ministry, in charge of customs, said it was a routine check that was not specifically aimed at Turkish Airlines.

The dogs are responsible for checking whether passengers leaving Austria are carrying large sums of cash over the authorised limit of 10,000 euros.

A finance ministry spokesman said such checks were carried out in a "discreet" way, regardless of the passengers' nationality, and until now had "never given rise to recriminations".

Relations between Turkey and European Union states including Austria have been strained since last year's attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Europe's growing concerns over the subsequent crackdown.

Since the coup bid over 50,000 people have been arrested, including several European nationals, while more than 140,000 public sector workers have been sacked or suspended.
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Austrian leaders say Turkey's EU membership prospects are 'buried' .

Austrian leaders said the European Union should end talks over Turkey's 30-year-old bid to join its ranks after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a controversial referendum on gaining further powers.

"With what happened yesterday, (Turkey's) membership prospects are buried, in practical terms," said Chancellor Christian Kern.

"We are entering a new era," the Social Democrat told reporters in Vienna.

EU aid to Turkey to help it advance towards membership was now "obsolete," he added.

Like other European leaders, Kern also spoke out against any move to restore the death penalty in Turkey.

Separately, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that after the Turkish referendum, "we can no longer simply return to business as usual."

"We must be honest about the relationship between the EU and Turkey," Kurz said in a tweet.

"We need to end the EU entry negotiations and instead work to establish a neighbourhood agreement" with Turkey, he said, referring to relations that are close but lie below full membership.

Sunday's referendum focussed on a proposal to reinforce the powers of the Turkish president -- a move that critics say may worsen the country's rights record and steer it towards dictatorship.

The "Yes" campaign won by 51.41 percent, according to near-complete results released by the election authorities.

Angry opposition groups have cried foul and demanded a recount.

International observers on Monday said the referendum campaign was conducted on an "unlevel playing field".

On Sunday evening, Erdogan suggested he would back moves to bring back capital punishment which had been abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey's bid to join the EU.

Brussels has made it clear that any move to restore it would scupper Ankara's efforts to join the bloc.

Ankara's relations with Europe had been tense in the months leading up to Sunday's vote, driven by the government's crackdown after a failed coup last July.

Turkey has had an association agreement with the EU since 1963 and formally applied to join the bloc on April 14th 1987.

The talks have made only slow progress, hamstrung by questions in Brussels over human rights and democracy in Turkey.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:13 am

Far right accepts invitation to join Austrian coalition talks.

Austria's far-right FPÖ party on Tuesday agreed to enter talks on forming a coalition government with incoming chancellor Sebastian Kurz, offering a fresh boost to populist parties in Europe.

The conservative chancellor, 31, invited the FPÖ (Freedom Party) for talks, paving the way for the party to return to power nearly two decades after it last entered government in 2000.

"We have accepted this invitation," said FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache. His party came third in elections on October 15th.

The last time the FPÖentered government Austria was ostracised in Europe. Its then leader Joerg Haider praised Hitler's "orderly" employment policies.

But such a backlash is not expected this time. The FPÖ -- founded by ex-Nazis after World War II -- has sought to soften its image.

Its recent rise has mirrored that of other populist parties in Europe.

Kurz earlier said that "very constructive" preliminary talks had already been held between his People's Party (ÖVP) and the FPÖ.

He said he hoped an agreement would be reached by Christmas.

"Austria deserves to have a stable government formed quickly," he said.

Kurz, nicknamed "wunderwuzzi" ("whizz-kid"), took over the conservative ÖVP in May. He attracted supporters by depicting himself as a breath of fresh air, talking tough on immigration and vowing to slash taxes and red tape.

The ÖVP won 31.5 percent of the vote, followed by the centre-left Social Democrats on 26.9 percent. Their leader Christian Kern is preparing his party to lead the opposition.

The FPÖ, which has long been critical of the European Union, came a close third with 26.0 percent, just short of its 1999 record of 26.9 percent under Haider.

Kurz, who is set to become the world's youngest leader, on Tuesday insisted a "clear pro-Europe orientation" was a prerequisite for entering a coalition with his party.

He said last week he expected Austria to play an "active" role in the EU, but Strache did not immediately address those comments.

The FPÖ is demanding increased border security, Swiss-style direct democracy and economic reforms.

Its leaders have also said Islam "has no place" in Austria.

After he dined in Strache's home following his electoral victory, Austria dubbed Kurz's ties with the FPÖ leader the "sushi coalition".

"We agree on some points and disagree on others," Kurz said on Tuesday, without elaborating.

Last week he vowed "zero tolerance" on anti-Semitism in any future government.

Israel temporarily withdrew its ambassador to Austria in 2000 over Haider's praise of Hitler and SS veterans.

Relations with Israel were normalised in 2003 under prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Strache, who has headed the FPÖ since 2005, has moved to soften the party's image and improve relations with the Jewish state.

Strache, 48, has visited Israel several times, the last time in April 2016 when he met members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and laid a wreath at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Israel's foreign ministry stressed at the time that it was a "strictly private visit" that included no official meetings.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sun Nov 05, 2017 9:54 am

Austrian party head quits over sexual harassment claims.

Prominent Austrian politician Peter Pilz quit on Saturday as head of his newly formed anti-establishment party over sexual harassment allegations.

"I've always fought for strict standards and these standards also apply to me," the 63-year-old said in a statement.

The announcement came after news weekly Falter confronted him early Saturday with allegations of sexual misconduct.

A young woman told the newspaper that a very inebriated Pilz had groped her in 2013 at a major annual discussion forum in the western town of Alpbach.

"His hands were everywhere," she was quoted as saying by Falter.

The woman said two other forum participants eventually dragged the politician away.

Pilz said he could not remember the incident, but took the allegations "extremely serious". However, Pilz rejected claims made last week by a female Greens member who also accused him of fondling her on dozens of occasions when he was still with the party. He said he would fight the allegations in court.

Pilz is an old hand in Austrian politics, having co-founded the Greens party in 1986. He split in July and formed an anti-establishment party dubbed the "Pilz List" which won four seats in last month's snap election.

He said he would continue to advise the "Pilz List", made up of artists, academics and entrepreneurs.

The Austrian joins a growing queue of notable men from Hollywood to Brussels and London who face allegations of sexual harassment or worse.

The first major headline on the issue was in October with disgraced US film producer Harvey Weinstein, but has since ensnared movie stars Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman, Britain's former defence minister Michael Fallon and senior European Parliament staff.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Thu Nov 09, 2017 8:45 pm

Austrian far right ditches 'Nazi' flower for edelweiss.

Austria's far-right Freedom Party raised eyebrows in parliament on Thursday by ditching their usual blue cornflowers, a symbol associated by many with Nazism despite the party's strenuous denials.

The anti-immigration party's 51 MPs instead sported an edelweiss, a white-and-yellow Alpine flower, in their lapels at the opening session of parliament following last month's elections.

The edelweiss stands for "courage, bravery and love," FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who is set to become deputy premier in a likely coalition currently being negotiated with the conservatives, said on Wednesday.

Traditionally, like when parliament last opened after elections in 2013, FPÖ lawmakers have worn cornflowers, which matches the party's colours and which it said symbolises the ideals of the 1848 liberal revolutions in Europe.

However critics say that the cornflower is better known from being worn by Austrian Nazis as a secret way of recognising each other when they were banned in the 1930s, before Adolf Hitler annexed his native country in 1938.

The nationalist FPÖ was created by former Nazis in the 1950s and its first head was a former member of the SS.

Strache also flirted with neo-Nazism in his youth, although he now says he rejects all extremism and racism.

Observers said that the FPOe's decision to abandon the cornflower is a further attempt to soften its image as it prepares to enter government as junior partners to incoming chancellor Sebastian Kurz, 31, of the centre-right.

"The cornflower played a certain role, also in the early day of the Nazi-era. The edelweiss, instead, is a symbol of Austria, as opposed to the cornflower," political analyst Thomas Hofer told AFP.

While few Austrians care little about such symbolism, Strache wanted to avoid more "media frenzy," Hofer added.

The edelweiss is also famous -- albeit only outside Austria -- as a song in the 1965 hit musical film "The Sound of Music" starring Julie Andrews about the von Trapp family's escape from Nazis in World War II.

The last time the FPÖ entered government, in 2000 under controversial then-leader Joerg Haider, there were major demonstrations and Austria was ostracised within the European Union for a time.

This time, however, the reaction is likely to be considerably more muted, with the FPÖ having toned down its rhetoric and Europe now much more inured to nationalist and populist parties.

On Thursday only around 200 anti-fascist protestors staged a demonstration in central Vienna carrying placards such as "Don't let Nazis govern" and "Fascism wears many colours".
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