Austria's new far-right/conservative government to impose ‘sanctions’ on immigrants who keep their own culture

The OVP and FPO have unveiled their programme for government

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Monday 18 December 2017 12:52 GMT
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Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the OVP (right) and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the FPO were sworn in on Monday
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the OVP (right) and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the FPO were sworn in on Monday

Austria’s new government has unveiled plans for financial “sanctions” on immigrants who keep their own culture and do not “integrate” with mainstream society.

The government, a coalition between the conservative People’s Party (OVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), agreed a deal at the weekend with provisions set to make life more difficult for foreigners in the country.

The two parties’ agreed policy programme says that immigrants who are judged to be “refusing to integrate” should expect “sanctions”.

One specific policy outlined in the agreement includes a cut to the basic level of support payments for asylum seekers. The reduction can be recouped by families by earning an “integration bonus” if they are deemed to be adopting Austrian culture, as defined by the government.

The programme also calls for faster deportations of asylum seekers and says undocumented immigration will be halted, as well as vowing to stop the creation of “parallel societies”.

Government ministries are split between the two parties under the agreement, with the far right taking control of defence, the interior ministry – which includes security and citizenship – and the foreign ministry.

The conservatives will be running the finance, justice business and education ministries.

Sebastian Kurz, 31, is the youngest leader in Europe (AFP/Getty)

“We want to protect our homeland Austria as a liveable place with all its cultural assets. This includes deciding for ourselves who can immigrate and live with us and ending illegal immigration,” the agreement states

The FPO was founded by former Nazi officers. Under youthful leader Sebastian Kurz the OVP has also aped FPO rhetoric and policies on immigration and culture.

Mr Kurz was sworn in as Chancellor (head of government) at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace on Monday, while OVP leader Heinz-Christian Strache is the new vice-Chancellor.

Police said between 5,000 to 6,000 people attended a demonstration against the new government in front of the palace as the inauguration ceremony took place.

After signing the agreement Mr Strache said he would “undertake optimisations regarding the objectivity” of Austria’s public broadcaster ORF.

In 2000, the last time the FPO entered government, the EU briefly imposed diplomatic sanctions on Austria, but they were withdrawn after suggestions they might be counterproductive.

Welcoming the new government, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage tweeted: “In 2000 I sat in a European Parliament that wanted sanctions on Austria because the Freedom Party (FPO) was in coalition government. It’s now the same situation in 2017 and no one says a word. Eurosceptic politics is now mainstream.”

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