Austrian government in crisis after Green minister votes for controversial EU renaturation law

Austria's right-wing FPÖ party slams the ruling conservatives for maintaining its alliance with the Greens, calls for new elections

FPÖ Federal Party Chairman Herbert Kickl. (Photo: FPÖ)
By John Cody
5 Min Read

Following their approval of the EU Nature Restoration Law, Austria’s government has been thrown into crisis, with the two parties leading the nation, the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Greens, potentially seeing their coalition government collapse.

Supporters of the new renaturation act say it will help clean up Europe’s rivers and moors in order to restore them to their natural state, while detractors say it will harm farmers and threaten the continent’s food supply. The law was passed by the EU’s environment ministers, with the Austrian climate protection minister, Leonore Gewessler, providing the decisive vote for it to pass.

Now, the conservatives want to sue their own climate minister, with the ÖVP saying they will file charges for abuse of office, according to ÖVP General Secretary Christian Stocker.

“Leonore Gewessler is placing herself above the constitution because she cannot reconcile her green ideology with acting in accordance with the law,” said Stocker.

Gewessler took her vote in clear opposition to Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who leads the conservatives in the Austrian government coalition.

The right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) is now piling the pressure on the coalition government, with party leader Herbert Kickl calling on Nehammer to fire Gewessler and saying that if he did not remove her, the FPÖ would submit a motion of no confidence to parliament.

“The proposal to the Federal President to immediately dismiss Gewessler is the least the ÖVP chancellor should do now. The real order of the day, however, would be an immediate end to this worst federal government of all time, under which the Austrians have already suffered for more than four years,” said Kickl in a statement.

Kickl has long argued that the ÖVP, which is cooperating with the Greens, is not a true conservative party. He now says that the Austrian chancellor will “once again prove himself to be completely untrustworthy, dishonest and incompetent” if he keeps Gewessler on as minister.

“This applies in particular to his plans after the National Council elections, where he is still working in the back rooms of Vienna on an unholy ‘Austro-traffic light’ with the Marxist SPÖ and the EU-fanatic Neos. These parties are not only in favor of the EU Nature Restoration Law, but also want to promote illegal mass immigration, burden people with additional taxes and make rainbow and gender ideology the dominant culture. Nehammer must therefore also rule out a coalition with these two parties,” said Kickl.

Kickl’s party landed in first place following the EU elections with record high results, and many polling experts say Kickl could be the country’s next chancellor. However, his FPÖ party would still need to strike a coalition deal to win power, and with its bad blood with ÖVP, that may prove increasingly difficult even if the two parties previously ran the country together in the past.

However, with Nehammer facing betrayal from his Green partners following the EU Renaturation Act vote, he may face additional pressure from his own voters to drop the Greens, particularly with farmers enraged over the law. Kickl is counting on this and is directly appealing to this demographic.

“With her ideology-driven arbitrary act, Gewessler has helped to introduce an EU law that means nothing less than the death of our agriculture and (the death of) the security of our population’s domestic food supply, as well as an unacceptable loss of sovereignty in favor of the centralist EU elites. In view of this dramatic dimension, it is downright ridiculous if ÖVP Chancellor Nehammer does not know how to help himself with more than pithy slogans,” said Kickl.

The FPÖ’s vote of no confidence will also be designed to split ÖVP’s politicians, many of whom may be questioning their alliance with the Greens.

“The vote on our motion of no confidence will therefore also be a question of conscience for every single ÖVP representative as to whether they will continue to build a wall against a destroyer of our security of food supply and an accelerator of farmers’ deaths,” said Kickl.

A national vote is set for Sept. 29.

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