High-flying Austrian FPÖ launches full-on assault on ‘catastrophic’ economic policies from government wedded to Brussels

Now the top party in Austria according to the polls, FPÖ is ramping up its rhetoric against the government ahead of next year’s general election

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
FILE -- Supporters wave Austrian flags during the final election campaign event of the right-wing Freedom Party for the European elections in Vienna, Austria, Friday, May 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, file)

The opposition Freedom Party (FPÖ) in Austria has upped its level of attack on the current administration, accusing the incumbent People’s Party (ÖVP) of being blindly led by the European Union and implementing policies that have had catastrophic consequences for the Austrian people.

In a debate in the National Council on Tuesday, FPÖ energy spokesman Axel Kassegger called for a radical change to the government’s energy policy, which he claimed has driven the Austrian “homeland into an economic war.”

Kassegger slammed ÖVP for its economy-destroying coronavirus rules and for blindly adopting Brussels’ anti-Russian energy sanctions — which he called equivalent to Austria shooting itself in the foot. He called for an end to the sanctions and for the government to “start peace talks.”

He said the current coalition had “fueled the problems and crises through their actions and policies,” claiming, “The crisis did not fall from the sky but was produced by this federal government itself.”

The ÖVP-led administration is still acting “completely excessively” to the coronavirus pandemic with “emergency regulations” that are crippling businesses and making life more expensive for the Austrian people, Kassegger told lawmakers.

On the country’s climate policy, the FPÖ politician accused Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) of succumbing to the whims of his coalition partner, the Green party, “who want to save the global climate at the expense of their own population and with a completely wrong approach.” He called for an end to the “demonization of coal, gas, and oil.”

“That leads to nothing, except for emigration and the associated destruction of our industry,” Kassegger said. “Let’s make a reasonable energy policy (…) Of course, expand renewable energies, but please do not forget about grid stability and grid expansion.

“We need €18 billion, and the federal government is putting the brakes on it,” he said in reference to the level of investment he believes is needed to secure the country’s energy security.

He endorsed remarks made recently by former Chamber of Commerce President Christoph Leitl who said in an interview, “I don’t see anyone in the federal government or the European Commission who really represents the interests of Austrians and Europeans.”

“ÖVP and the Green party wants to please Brussels instead of representing the interests of the Austrians,” emphasized the FPÖ energy spokesman, revealing his party had submitted dozens of applications to the EU main committee on how to better tackle the energy crisis, “all of which have been rejected,” he said.

Kassegger’s remarks were corroborated by FPÖ MP Roman Haider who spoke in the same debate. He claimed the “massive price explosion” experienced in Austria’s energy market was a direct result of “the European Union’s misguided energy policy.”

“Inexpensive natural gas from Russia was exchanged for expensive LNG and fracking gas from the USA and Qatar,” Haider told his parliamentary colleagues.

“Without question, the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but the sanctions in the energy sector do not end this aggression, nor will they lead to Russian bankruptcy, because Russian raw materials are now flowing to other countries,” Haider explained.

On the issue of greener energy in general, Haider stressed that “even if all of Europe were plastered with wind turbines, we would still need fossil fuels in the future.”

“In view of this misguided European energy policy, I, unfortunately, view our economy in Europe pessimistically. The energy policy of both the EU and the black-green government is catastrophic. This energy policy is a serious threat to the livelihoods of Europeans,” he added.

FPÖ’s popularity among the electorate has skyrocketed in recent polls, and the party is now the top party in Austria for the first time in seven years.

The party is also known for its strict line on immigration. A dramatic rise in asylum applications last year has seen Austrian Minister of the Interior Erhard Karner (ÖVP) call for Brussels to allow for stricter measures to contain the flow, a move FPÖ claims is simply paying lip service to the issue without any real intent on solving the problem. In 2022, Austria had nearly 60,000 asylum applications, almost triple the figure recorded in the previous year.

The party saw its newfound popularity bear fruit in Sunday’s regional elections in Lower Austria where FPÖ secured 24.2 percent of the vote, up 9 percentage points from last time.

FPÖ federal party manager Christian Hafenecker said on Sunday evening, “This is the beginning,” revealing further ambitions to propel the party back into power.

One such policy recently proposed by the party is for a referendum on the anti-Russian sanctions and on arms shipments to Ukraine.

“We want to ask the population how they feel about the current sanctions policy against Russia and arms exports to Ukraine,” said MEP Harald Vilimsky, head of the party’s delegation in the European Parliament on Monday.

The party believes the Austrian people will agree that sanctions on Russia are proving to be too high of a burden for ordinary people to bear and that they have only helped to drive inflation higher across the country.

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