Austria Unveils Plan to 'Sanction' Immigrants Who Do Not Give Up Their Culture

Below are some of the policies that new chancellor Sebastian Kurz's OVP and Heinz-Christian Strache's FPO have already agreed on

Sebastian Kurz, Austria's chancellor, left, and Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria's vice chancellor, look on during the inauguration of the new federal government in Vienna, Austria, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017
Lisi Niesner/Bloomberg

Austria’s new right-wing government unveiled their policy goals and a plan for “sanctions” on immigrants who keep their own culture as opposing to assimilate into mainstream Austrian culture.

Ministers from Austria's main conservative People's Party (OVP) and the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO) were sworn in on Monday, making it the only western European country with a far-right component in its governing coalition.

Below are some of the policies that new chancellor Sebastian Kurz's OVP and Heinz-Christian Strache's FPO have already agreed on. The policies include "fighting political Islam," improve relations with Russia and block new immigrants from accessing many social services.

Israel

The new government's 182-page work plan states that it will be friendly towards Israel and that it is committed to fight anti-Semitism. The document states that Chancellor Kurz's government commits to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, "with the goal of achieving a two-state solution that will ensure secure borders for Israel as well as for a Palestinian state." The government's position is to support international efforts to advance peace in the Middle East, while at the same time "protecting Israel's security interests" in particular.

The government's work plan also calls for special commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany's 1938 annexation of Austria, the Anschluss, as it is known in German. "Austria recognizes its part in the guilt and responsibility for the tragedy that the Anschuss led to," the government work plan states. "We wish to remember, above all else, those who suffered as a result and to convey a clear message against any kind of anti-Semitism."

European Union

Oppose deeper political integration among EU members states, seek to have more powers returned to national governments. Oppose Turkey's bid to join the EU.

Rule out a referendum on Austrian membership of the EU.

Move some departments that deal with European affairs, including the task force preparingAustria's EU presidency in the second half of 2018, to the chancellery headed by Kurz. (The FPO will take control of the Foreign Ministry).

Push for more relaxed relationship between West and Russia.

Law and order

Introduce tougher minimum sentences for violent and sex crimes.

Make fighting political Islam a priority.

Secure Austria's borders nationally to stop illegal immigration until the EU has secured external frontiers.

Put around 2,100 more policemen on the streets.

Economy

Extend the maximum working day to 12 hours from 10.

Facilitate immigration only for qualified workers in sectors that are struggling to find suitable Austrian employees.

Simplify administrative framework in highly federalised Austria.

Support construction of third runway at Vienna Airport.

Education

Focus on improving test results in basic skills such as reading, writing and numeracy, allow children to start school only if their German is good enough.

Cut social benefits for parents who fail to comply with certain requirements, like ensuring attendance and that their child speaks German well enough.

Budget and taxes

Cut public spending to fund tax cuts. Kurz and Strache repeatedly said during their campaigns that they planned to cut public spending by around 12 billion euros ($14.1 billion).

Reduce corporate tax burden, for example by exempting profit reinvested in Austria.

Not introduce wealth or inheritance taxes.

Introduce public "debt brake" in the constitution.

Push, also at a European level, for higher taxes on online transactions with foreign companies.

Social policy

Block newcomers from accessing many social services in Austria in their first five years in the country.

Cap the main basic benefit payment at 1,500 euros a month for families and provide refugees with a "light" version of regular benefits.

 Cut benefits for refugees and turn cash payments into benefits in kind so as to minimise what they say is a "pull factor" attracting immigrants to the country.

Reform the state pension system to reflect Austria's ageing population.

Give families a tax cut worth 1,500 euros per child per year.

Merge Austria's 22 public health and other social security funds into five entities to cut administrative costs.

Environment

Produce 100 percent of Austria's power from renewable sources by 2030, compared with roughly 33 percent at present, and keep the national ban on nuclear power plants.

Direct democracy

Gradual introduction of legislation to allow a referendum to take place if at least 900,000 voters support the issue.

Rule out referendums on Austrian membership of the EU; support the European-Canadian trade deal CETA.

Smoking

Overturn a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants that is due to come into effect in May 2018.

Ofer Aderet contributed to this report