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News from Austria

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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:00 pm

Austria: 1 dead, 21 hurt in explosion at natural gas plant.

BERLIN (AP) — An explosion Tuesday at a major natural gas facility near Austria's border with Slovakia left one person dead, 21 injured, and caused some gas flow disruptions to other countries, authorities said.

One person was seriously injured and 20 others slightly hurt in the morning blast at the plant in Baumgarten an der March, east of Vienna, police said. No one was in a life-threatening condition. The explosion set off a fire, which operator Gas Connect said was contained by midmorning. The facility was "shut down in a controlled state and is offline," the company said.

Police wrote on Twitter that the explosion was triggered by a "technical cause," but didn't elaborate and said that local authorities are investigating. Gas Connect said it also suspects an unspecified technical fault.

Gas Connect describes the Baumgarten plant, where pipelines connect and compress gas from Russia, Norway and other countries, as one of Europe's most important gas supply hubs. "The country's natural gas supply can be covered for the foreseeable future," the company said on its website. However, "transit through Austria to the south and southeast regions will be hindered until further notice."

Neighboring Italy's Economic Development Ministry declared an emergency after the explosion interrupted the flow of natural gas to the country, but said Italy's supply of gas would be ensured by existing stockpiles.

Italy's SNAM natural gas transport network said flows could resume in the course of the day if it is confirmed that no transport infrastructure was damaged.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:49 am

Thousands of passengers affected by Niki airline's grounding.

BERLIN (AP) — Thousands of European travelers could be left stranded by the bankruptcy of Austrian budget carrier Niki. The airline ceased flight operations Thursday. Hopes for a swift rescue of Niki, a division of bankrupt Air Berlin, were dashed Wednesday when Lufthansa dropped its bid for the airline following resistance from the European Commission.

Niki posted a notice on its website saying passengers should contact their tour operator if possible. It said several other airlines have offered to fly passengers back to Germany, Austria and Switzerland for a small fee if they booked directly through Niki.

Austria's transport minister said up to 10,000 passengers could be affected by the bankruptcy over the coming two weeks. The airline's founder, ex-Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda, has expressed interest in buying back the company.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Dec 16, 2017 12:58 pm

Austrian coalition deal on new gov't presented to president.

BERLIN (AP) — The leaders of conservative and nationalist parties in Austria have presented their coalition deal to the country's president for approval after concluding negotiations on forming a new government that will shift the country to the right.

Sebastian Kurz, head of the Austrian People's Party, will become chancellor under the agreement reached Friday night, while right-wing Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache will be vice chancellor.

Before meeting with President Alexander Van der Bellen on Saturday, Kurz said "we have a good and strong team." Following their talks, Van der Bellen said they all agreed it's "in the national interest of Austria to remain at the center of a strong European Union and to actively participate in the future development of the European Union."

Coalition plans were to be announced later Saturday.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:14 pm

Austria swears in Europe's youngest leader amid protests.

BERLIN (AP) — Sebastian Kurz was sworn in Monday as Austria's new chancellor, making him Europe's youngest leader at age 31, after his Austrian People's Party formed a coalition with the nationalist Freedom Party that is expected to move the country's politics to the right.

About 6,000 people protested outside President Alexander Van der Bellen's office with signs like "we don't want any Nazi pigs" and "Nazis out" as Kurz and his new Cabinet were sworn in, the dpa news agency reported.

The two parties have pledged to tighten the country's asylum and immigration regulations while maintaining a firm commitment to the European Union. Kurz has moved his traditionally centrist party to the right, particularly on the issues of migration and Muslims, but has avoided the inflammatory rhetoric of the Freedom Party, which itself has publicly disassociated itself from decades of covert anti-Semitism, but continues to attract a neo-Nazi fringe.

Political opponents have expressed particular concern that the Freedom Party has control of the important Interior, Defense and Foreign Ministries. Its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, is now vice chancellor.

Kurz served as foreign minister in the outgoing government led by Chancellor Christian Kern, a Social Democrat. He has stressed the importance of a pro-European direction and is expected to continue to take the lead on European issues even though the Freedom Party, which has traditionally been strongly euroskeptic, will have the Foreign Ministry.

Both Kurz's conservatives and the Freedom Party campaigned on the need for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.

A coalition agreement finalized Friday night pledged to bolster the country's police forces with another 2,100 officers, as well as immigration policies that "can be sustained by the population." The agreement also says asylum should only be offered to people "for the duration of their persecution, who really need Austria's help."

Other points include ending illegal migration, cutting government bureaucracy, reducing taxes and creating a new national climate and energy strategy. In the new Cabinet, the Freedom Party has five ministers in addition to Strache and a deputy minister.

Along with Kurz as chancellor, the People's Party has seven ministers and one deputy, with responsibilities including the Finance, Economy and Justice Ministries.
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:15 am

Austria walks back double-citizenship plan after Italy balks.

BERLIN (AP) — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday sought to allay Italian fears over a government proposal to offer citizenship mainly to German-speakers in a northern Italian region that was formerly part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

After Italian politicians balked at the unilateral proposal, Kurz said the citizenship offer outlined in the coalition government agreement between his Austrian People's party and the populist, right-wing Freedom Party only would be pursued "in close coordination" with Italy.

An undersecretary in Italy's foreign ministry, Benedetto Della Vedova, welcomed the softening of the Austrian position. He said Italy had read the proposal to grant Austrian citizenship en masse to speakers of German and the Romance language Ladino in the South Tyrol region as a provocative move. Seventy percent of the region's residents speak German, 25 percent Italian and 5 percent Ladino.

South Tyrol, known as Alto Adige in Italian, became part of Italy after World War I, but tension lingered for decades after a post-World War II vote by citizens on whether to remain in Italy or join Austria.

The "remain" vote won, while dissenters relocated to Austria. Still, the post-war agreement to remain part of Italy, which included broad political and economic autonomy, was a long and uneasy one, as South Tyrol politicians with the backing of Austria sought to create more distance from Rome.

An era of secession-driven terrorism that started in the 1960s followed. But even once the violence quieted, decades of resentment by locals toward Italian-speaking visitors ensued, with petty acts of vandalism common.

Italian fears over Austria upsetting a hard-won balance with the region's ethnic minorities were aroused by the citizenship proposal released over the weekend. The concerns heightened Monday when Werner Neubauer, the Freedom Party official in charge of relations with Alto Adige, said during a visit to Bolzano, in northern Italy, that German- and Ladino-speakers would be able to request Austrian citizenship next year and receive it as soon as early 2019.

Neubauer also said that Italian athletes who received Austrian citizenship could compete for Austria, further stirring emotions, as many of Italy's elite winter sports athletes hail from the mountainous South Tyrol region.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said the question of double-citizenship would have to be faced "with great delicacy." Far-right Italian politician Giorgia Meloni warned "hands off Alto Adige," and expressed anger that Austria had "put on the table, unilaterally, the concession of citizenship" after Italy's government had spent "billions of euros of Italian money to pay the German-speaking population in the autonomous region."
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Re: News from Austria

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Jan 13, 2018 5:18 pm

Thousands protest Austria's new right-wing government.

VIENNA (AP) — Thousands of Austrians are protesting their country's new right-wing government with a march in Vienna. Police in the capital said about 20,000 people were attending the march on Saturday.
Protesters walk during a demonstration against the new Austrian government in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.

Some protesters carried placards reading "Never Again." Others chanted slogans such as "Refugees should stay, drive out the Nazis." The new governing coalition made up of the conservative Austrian People's Party and the nationalist Freedom Party has taken a hard line against migration.
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