Austria: secret paper brings Greens in trouble – politics

When the Green party leader Werner Kogler sat on ORF on Sunday evening, he seemed breathless. The TV discussion was supposed to be about skyrocketing energy and rental costs in Austria, but the first issue was whether the Green party leadership had lied to their federal delegates’ congress and thus the base about the content of their government agreement with the ÖVP. In January 2020, the Greens and the ÖVP presented a coalition agreement; Now, two years later, a “side letter” has appeared, a secret supplementary agreement that the delegates did not get to see at the time.

It specifies the proportional distribution of posts for supreme courts, EU institutions and state-related companies, the number of foundation councils in the ORF to be nominated by both parties, but there are also substantive specifications. A decree will introduce a “headscarf ban for female teachers during the legislative period.” Such a thing would hardly have been sold to green delegates; the headscarf ban in schools was a favorite project of ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. If you ask around the Greens, it is either said that the paper was an “insurance” against the overpowering ÖVP, or, as the then co-negotiator Birgit Hebein tweeted, its existence was “irritating”.

Kogler argued on ORF that he was taking responsibility, that after lengthy negotiations one had to “close the sack” at some point, and that it was always clear that such a headscarf ban would not hold up before the constitutional court. The topic was negotiated out of the coalition agreement and was a “zero” anyway. However, the debate about the existence of the paper continues unabated. The Greens say they had to protect themselves against attacks and dominance by the ÖVP.

The paper shows how the FPÖ and ÖVP divided the republic

This is also piquant because the Green party leadership assumes that the Turkish forces around ex-Chancellor Kurz intentionally leaked the paper in order to distract from another debate. Which seems to have worked. Previously, on Friday, a corresponding side letter to the coalition agreement between the ÖVP and the FPÖ, which had governed together from 2017 to 2019, had appeared. Its existence had long been speculated about; Now an FPÖ politician had taken him out of a safe in the parliamentary group for questioning by the economic and corruption public prosecutor.

The paper contains, far more detailed than the black-green agreement, names, deadlines, starting dates, divisions for all possible positions of power – even for those that have to be advertised under Austrian law, or that, for example at the Öbag state holding, are to be carried out by the supervisory board . There is also a list of managerial positions at the public ORF; many of the abbreviated names are not difficult to decipher and show once again the influence of politics on the broadcaster (which is illegal under the law).

The contents of the paper contain double explosives. On the one hand, Sebastian Kurz’s statement to the Ibiza investigative committee that he was not involved in filling the board position at Öbag makes it even more unlikely. The public prosecutor’s office is investigating him for making false statements. In addition, the lush side letter once again makes it clear how the FPÖ and ÖVP divided the republic. ÖVP faction leader August Wöginger finds it all completely normal. He speaks of “artificial excitement”.

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