Borderline | Austria’s Coalition Under Pressure

The present ÖVP-GRÜNE government was always an unlikely marriage. The growing possibility of another flood of refugees over the Turkish-Greek border is putting the young partnership to the test.

Honeymoons are by definition short, political honeymoons often fleeting. The coalition pact between the present Austrian government’s two parties, the dominant conservative ÖVP and the smaller left-leaning Greens, involved painful compromises for both. ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz built his mainstream popularity on his tough actions as foreign minister, sealing the so-called West Balkan refugee route. The coalition agreement reflects this attitude- no more refugees. The Grünen reluctantly accepted this as the price of participation, but made it clear that they would never support Schutzhaft, preventative detention. Part of former Interior Minister Herbert Kickl’s “hostile environment” to discourage asylum seekers, it was probably unconstitutional, and for the Grünen, totally unacceptable. The papering over of policy cracks between the two partners was from the beginning dangerously thin.

EU-Turkey agreement

And then came what was probably inevitable: another surge of Syrians, adding to the 3.8 million refugees already overloading Turkish capacity. The four-year EU-Turkey agreement for €6 billion in aid (some called it a bribe) to ensure the Turks held back the tide, is due to expire this month. Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan has seized the political moment to announce that his security forces would no longer prevent refugees making their way to the frontier with Greece. Media report that Turkish authorities are not only allowing the desperate refugees through, but actively encouraging them, by announcing that the Greeks had already allowed in 36,000 and laying on busses to help them get there. No matter the strenuous denials from the Greeks: The surge had begun. The damage was done.

Heart-rending pictures of weeping children soon flooded the media. Kurz remained firm: If you let a few in, tens of thousands will follow. For the Grünen, caught between their commitment to the coalition pact and their traditionally humanitarian positions, the political situation has been tricky.  Green party boss Werner Kogler pleaded to at least allow the children in. But this was just his “private opinion,” he added hastily.  ven President Alexander Van der Bellen joined in with a similar plea. Kurz still said plainly: Nein

At present all agree that Turkish president Erdogan is engaged in a cynical blackmail scam to squeeze more money out of the EU. And at the expense of the long suffering victims. So for the moment the coalition is solid, but whether the thin line of barbed wire will hold, is another question.

(Foto: © Parlamentsdirektion / Johannes Zinner)

Simon Ballam
English, studied in NY and worked in London, Düsseldorf, NY, Fankfurt, Prague and Vienna. This covered stints in market research and the film industry, international advertising coordination and strategic planning. Currently business school lecturer and journalist.

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


 

RECENT Articles

The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | Austria Issues Travel Warning for Spa...

Here’s all you need to know about current measures and developments, including trusted sources and tips – regularly updated.

Book Review | Daniel Kehlmann & The Power of Mockery

In Tyll, widely-acclaimed German-Austrian author Daniel Kehlmann reinvents a medieval legend to unmask the fatuity of rulers and the wisdom of tricks.

Why the EU Recovery Fund Is a Big Deal – for Europe & for the Climate

The recent budget-corona negotiations could lead to the creation of a fiscal union and a greater emphasis on sustainability.

Musical Chairs for UK-EU Expats – Grab a Seat Before the Music Stops

As the Brexit negotiations drag on, there is still no final clarity on the future of British citizens living in Europe. It is likely to be reciprocal – whatever that means. With Boris, who knows?

Max Schrems Challenges Facebook and Wins. Again.

European court ruling strikes down the transatlantic data transfer mechanism in a case initiated by the young Austrian data privacy advocate.

Vienna Takes on Airbnb Over Social Housing

After negotiations failed, the city is suing the short-term housing platform over illegal sublets in Gemeindebauten municipal apartments.
 

METROPOLE NEWSLETTER

Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.