New government coalition formed in Austria
VIENNA, Mar 1, (KUNA) -- The new Austrian government coalition headed by
conservative Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel took constitutional oath in front of
President Thomas Klestil, here Friday night.
The new government is considered a comeback of the former coalition which
had collapsed last year due to the intervention of right-wing leader Jorg
Haider in governmental affairs.
The new government includes 18 officials; eight of them are ministers from
the conservative People's Party in addition to an independent minister Karl
Hainz Grasser who had resigned from the far-right Freedom Party and three
other state ministers.
The Freedom Party, the smaller partner of the coalition has four
ministerial seats where its leader Herbert Haupt was appointed as Vice
Chancellor and Minister of Social Affairs along with three other ministers
from his party including Defense Minister Herbert Scheibner.
From the People's Party, Foreign Minister Beneta Ferrero Waldner, Minister of
Economy Martin Bartenstein, Minister of Interior Ernst Strasser and Minister
of Education Elizabeth Gehrer have maintained their posts in the new
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel declared in a press conference
following the oath ceremony last night that his government has set a tax
reform program that would be carried out through two phases and would cancel
early retirement starting next year.
On foreign policy in Europe, the Chancellor described the
expansion of the European Union as a historical opportunity of which Austria
must make use of, a matter supported by the coalition of the People's Party
and the Freedom Party despite what has been said on the reservation of the
Freedom Party in this issue. Reports have indicated that the Freedom Party has
a set of conditions that restrict the entrance of new members in order to
protect job opportunities and security in Austria from the newcomers.
As for the head of the Freedom Party and new Vice Chancellor Herbert Haupt,
he said that his party continues to be a stabilizing factor for the government.
The Freedom Party has been criticized for the disputes that have been
raised by party member Jorg Haider in the past and by that leading to the
collapse of the previous coalition resulting in the call for early elections.
New elections were held last November during which the People's Party won
the majority of votes resulting in a major loss for the Freedom Party.
The formation of a new coalition had faced many obstacles and it took
Chancellor Schussel three months to find himself an ally. After failing to
convince the opposition socialist and green parties to join his government, he
had no choice but to turn to his old partner, the rightist Freedom Party, to
form the coalition even though the latter had caused the failure of the
previous government. (end)