The Green party leadership around Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler needed that like a goiter. While the Greens in the federal government continue to have to deal with high corona numbers and were only able to loosen the restrictions from February 5 on Saturday, unpleasant things became public. It is not only the turquoise-blue federal government that has made side agreements on the distribution of power and specific appointments in a document on coalition work that was initially kept secret, the Greens have also sealed appointments in a “side letter”. Not only that, but also the actual abolition of the controversial Hackler early pension in November 2020 in exchange for personnel commitments.
On Monday, however, representatives of the Greens from Lower Austria to the West tried to calm down. For example, Vorarlberg’s Deputy Governor Johannes Rauch, who is in a coalition with the ÖVP in the state, defended the secret additional pact with the “extent of unscrupulousness” that the People’s Party under ex-Chairman Sebastian Kurz had shown in the “Salzburger Nachrichten”.
Green federal congress must approve coalition pact
In the agreement, which has remained secret for two years, turquoise-green has stipulated that the Greens will be granted the successor to ex-FPÖ chairman Norbert Steger as head of the ORF foundation board. In return, the ÖVP has anchored a headscarf ban for teachers and the abolition of the hacker regulation. This is now causing an internal uproar among the Greens, because according to the statute, only the official coalition pact with the Kurz-ÖVP was approved. But not secret content.
Vienna’s former deputy mayor Birgit Hebein, chief green negotiator in the social sector, emphasized that she knew nothing about it. This is all the more important for a party that has always preached transparency in political decisions and grass-roots democracy since entering parliament in 1986. In the ORF program “Im Zentrum”, Kogler classified the headscarf ban as “zero” because it was not implemented. With the Hackler regulation, the result with the replacement by the early starter bonus, from which women also benefit, is good. The internal test for Kogler, who is not confronted with headwind for the first time because of the accommodation towards the ÖVP, is yet to come. The re-election at the Federal Congress is scheduled for the end of April.
For Laurenz Ennser-Jedenastik from the Institute for Political Science at the University of Vienna, those parts of the side letters that have become public are “problematic” in particular, where a political influence is established in which such influence should not exist. At the ORF, this extends deep into the organization, from appointments to posts for which the law provides for tenders – for example the nationalized holding company Öbag – to “undermining” other procedures, such as appointments to the Constitutional Court. There, ÖVP and FPÖ even agreed the names of the people to be appointed in their side paper. “One wonders what this is doing in a coalition agreement,” Ennser-Jedenastik explained to the “Wiener Zeitung”: “That’s the main problem.”
At the same time, he differentiates when filling posts. In the case of supervisory board members in state-related companies, this falls under participatory rights as owners. “That is the task of ministries and ministers.” It is also clear that the parties will make the decision about a future EU Commissioner.
However, the division of posts was already common in the days of the grand coalition of the ÖVP and SPÖ from 1945 to 1966. Ennser-Jedenastik says he sees it as “problematic” that the state’s influence goes so far, “because it reflects an Austrian illness.”
The political scientist Katrin Praprotnik from Danube University Krems points out that the governing parties only had to present the coalition agreement from 1953 at the urging of the press. But now the side letter has been read for the first time. “The fact that it’s in black and white already has a new quality,” she emphasizes in an interview with the “Wiener Zeitung”. If job appointments were agreed in advance, it would be “a tease” for other applicants: “The advert will be ad absurdum.”
“Fall of Man” of the FPÖ already in government with bowl
Nevertheless, according to the two scientists, the debate about secret packing work affects the ÖVP, FPÖ and Greens differently. Praprotnik analyzes that it is “much more difficult” to explain within the Greens if the Federal Congress was obviously withheld from content-related points. The Ennser-Jedenastik assesses it in a similar way: The Greens “already have a problem” because the statute stipulates that the Federal Congress should vote on a coalition agreement. “I wonder who in the ÖVP should stand up and say: ‘That doesn’t fit.??’ ÖVP members don’t have “this type of base that is critical of the party leadership”.
Regarding the stipulation of the distribution of posts in a side letter from the turquoise-blue federal government in 2017, he states: “The great fall from grace of the FPÖ happened in the early 2000s.” For many, the attacks on the party membership of the SPÖ and ÖVP were the driving force in previous election campaigns. Even during the bowl government, however, it turned out that the FPÖ had “played along” with the allocation of posts.