Austria’s conservative leader Sebastian Kurz has agreed to plans with his new Green partners to extend a headscarf ban in schools and introduce preventive custody for potentially dangerous asylum seekers under a new coalition government deal that also lays out ambitious targets to tackle the climate crisis, Reuters reported.
Sebastian Kurz, leader of the Austrian People’s Party, will resume the chancellorship after ironing out a deal on New Year’s Day with Werner Kogler of the Greens, bringing the party into national government for the first time.
Speaking at an event outlining the details of the agreement Thursday, Kurz said it was “the best of both worlds” and allowed both parties to keep their campaign pledges, Reuters reported.
For the conservatives, those pledges included a continuation of their hard-line immigration stance and fight against “political Islam,” along with lower taxes, while the Greens had promised to usher in environmental measures and greater government transparency.
The deal must still be approved by the Greens’ decision-making body, the Federal Council, on Saturday, according to Reuters. And while it is expected to pass, the immigration and security measures proposed by Kurz’s conservatives are likely to be an uncomfortable compromise for the Greens. They are the junior partner in the pact.
The agreement – reached some three months after the country’s general election – was perceived as a slight swing to the left for the Austrian government, which was previously led by Kurz under a coalition agreement with the far-right Freedom Party.
But, as the two leaders unveiled the program, it appeared the conservatives did not have to give up much ground as part of the alliance.
The deal includes an extension of a ban on headscarves for girls in school, raising the age until which they’re prohibited to 14, up from 10 – an expansion of a policy introduced previously under Kurz.
It also breathes back life into a controversial plan for preventive custody of potentially dangerous migrants.
Despite these far-right policies, Kogler hailed the environmental successes he was able to incorporate into the program, such as a tax on flights out of Austria, investment in public transport and aiming to become carbon neutral by 2040 – a decade earlier than the European Union target.
While the Freedom Party suffered significant losses in the September election, the Greens gained almost nine points, securing 12.4% of the vote.
Kogler, who has led the Green Party since October 2017, has pledged to introduce greater transparency within the Austrian government.
“Austria will, I believe, have the most intense and largest transparency packages in recent decades, with an offensive towards free information and towards a transparent state,” he told reporters.
Kurz, who will lead the coalition as Chancellor, added that this new coalition government will aim to “protect the climate and the borders,” re-asserting his party’s commitment to curbing illegal immigration.
“It is possible to reduce the tax burden and to ecologize the tax system. And it is possible to protect the climate and the borders,” Kurz said, adding that his government will implement “measures against illegal migration and political Islam” in Austria.
Kurz’s People’s Party came first in the country’s general election in September, winning in every federal state except the capital, Vienna, according to the Austrian Interior Ministry.
The election was triggered after Kurz and his right-wing coalition government lost a vote of no confidence in May, making him the first Austrian Chancellor since World War II to be defeated by a no-confidence motion.
The vote was prompted by a corruption scandal over a secretly-filmed video. It showed former Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, from the far-right Freedom Party, appearing to offer state contracts to a woman falsely claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.
Strache denied any wrongdoing and resigned after the tape was revealed.