On one point even the Greens and the Freedom Party agreed. The head of the FPÖ, Herbert Kickl, spoke of a “historic debate”, and Greens club chairwoman Sigrid Maurer saw an “extraordinary agenda item”. But that was also the case with the blue-green agreement on the Covid 19 compulsory vaccination law, which was passed in the National Council on Thursday. In the vote, 137 mandataries voted for compulsory Covid vaccination and only 33 against. The coalition agreed unanimously, with SPÖ and Neos there were isolated no votes.
The fronts ran as usual in the debate: while the SPÖ and Neos supported the legislative decision in addition to turquoise-green, the FPÖ rejected the measure. It was striking that the ÖVP did not have any high-ranking advocates from the government – such as the chancellor or the constitutional minister. Only three members of the National Council from the ÖVP made contributions, but not even club boss August Wöginger. On the government side, it was left to the Greens to defend the introduction of compulsory vaccination. They sent four speakers, the SPÖ even eight.
“The obligation to vaccinate will help us with the next waves in the fight against new virus variants,” said Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens). This is a step forward. “The vaccine has been shown to save lives.” All evidence also speaks for the fact that all preparations available in Austria are safe, says Mückstein. During his speech, members of the FPÖ held up a note: “No to the vaccination subscription”, it says.
“Shame on yourself!” Said Greens club chairwoman Sigrid Maurer in turn towards Kickl. The Covid 19 vaccines have now been vaccinated billions of times, and there are enough studies: “We know that they are safe and we know that they work,” said Maurer. “Vaccination is also a triumph of science against the denial of facts and empiricism.”
“I am shocked”
Kickl had previously given an incendiary speech against compulsory vaccination. “I’m horrified, I’m stunned, I’m shaken and I’m shocked,” said the FPÖ leader. He assumes that there are millions of people in Austria who feel the same way he does. The introduction of mandatory vaccinations is nothing more “than an attack on the freedom of Austrians, an attack on human dignity,” said the liberal club chairman.
This “act of disenfranchisement” leads to “millions of people being downgraded in one fell swoop, as one would say in modern German”. Kickl identified a “health communism”: “The fact that a Chinese social model is being introduced to combat a Chinese virus is a historical joke.” However, Kickl announced that the obligation to vaccinate would be overturned in court and before the courts. “You will not escape tomorrow’s just punishment if you say yes today.” Kickl promised that he would continue not to be vaccinated.
When Kickl criticized Neos party leader Beate-Meinl Reisinger for agreeing to compulsory vaccination, she clapped her hands in front of her face. In addition to turquoise-green, the SPÖ and Neos support the compulsory vaccination law, even if individual deviants were expected in the run-up to the vote.
The massive failures of the federal government have contributed to the low vaccination rate, said Meinl-Reisinger. Her group had been making proposals for positive incentives for vaccination for months but had not been heard. The agitation of the FPÖ against the vaccination also contributed to the low rate, according to the Neos boss, who pointed in the direction of Kickl. “Vaccination is the right way,” she emphasized.
Not all neos and greens agreed
However, the neos did not agree to the compulsory vaccination. It is piquant that pandemic spokesman Gerald Loacker and health spokeswoman Fiona Fiedler both said no. Loacker argued that Omikron’s obligation came too late and experts assumed that Corona would be comparable to the flu afterwards. Trust in politics is also lost and society is divided. He was amused that at the same time vouchers were distributed to those who are vaccinated: “You pay out a billion to people who abide by a law.”
Somewhat surprisingly, there was also a dissenter among the Greens. The Green MP Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic stayed away from the meeting because she does not want to approve the bill.
For SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner, “a lot has gone wrong in the last two years” in the fight against the pandemic in Austria. The vaccination rate is still far too low, so future lockdowns cannot be prevented. The vaccination requirement is therefore necessary to close the gap. Because only then would there be a “chance of a life like we knew it before Corona,” says Rendi-Wagner. “We Social Democrats take responsibility. Responsibility for protecting life, responsibility for protecting the health of the population.”
Lottery and community bonus
The vaccination requirement is accompanied by an incentive and rewards package. This was announced jointly by Nehammer, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) and Rendi-Wagner on Thursday. In a vaccination fleet, every tenth vaccinated person should win a voucher worth 500 euros. This applies to all those who have already been vaccinated and to those who are being vaccinated. There is a chance to win for each partial vaccination: Anyone who has been vaccinated three times can also win three times.
The lottery is scheduled to start on March 15, parallel to the entry into force of compulsory vaccination controls. The vouchers should be redeemable at Austrian companies – for example in the catering trade, in trade and in hotels.
A financial incentive system for the municipalities is also planned. If a community meets a certain vaccination quota, it should receive money. As an example, Nehammer gave an average municipality with 3,000 inhabitants, which would receive 30,000 euros with a vaccination rate of 80 percent, 60,000 euros with 85 percent and 120,000 euros with 90 percent. Up to 1.4 billion euros are earmarked for the measures. Of this, up to one billion euros can go to the lottery and up to 400 million euros to the municipalities.
approved tax reform
The eco-social tax reform was also decided on Thursday in the National Council. As of July 1st, a CO2-Pricing introduced. To compensate for this, there is a regional climate bonus of between 100 and 200 euros, depending on the region. The tax package also includes a reduction in corporate and income tax. (dab)