Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) about Sebastian Kurz’s PR show, why the new election rumor is not true and that he wants extraordinary border controls with Italy because the situation in Lampedusa (see also current photos above) is escalating.
“Kron”: An ironic question at the beginning: Have you coordinated the appointment with Sebastian Kurz in such a way that the use of 1.2 billion in taxpayer money is not lost like the billions in kindergarten as a result of a new PR activity by Sebastian Kurz?
Karl Nehammer: What is impressive to me is the impact Sebastian Kurz continues to have on published opinions. But don’t worry, as a government we have so many issues to deal with that we can present to the public.
The government is celebrating the complete abolition of the gradual tax increase in the last third. The critics say this is not a relief, but not an additional burden. Should we also have done something about the extra wage costs? More net from gross would also take the pressure off the upcoming wage negotiations…
I think you have to make a distinction here. What is important is that the cold progress, or in other words, the wage erosion that has been continuously taking place, has been finally abolished by our government, after decades of promises from previous governments. We designed the abolition of the cold progression in such a way that out of a total volume of 3.6 billion, there still remained approximately 1.2 billion where the state could actively intervene again. Here we have found a middle ground: parents and those who do extra work in the form of overtime are again relieved. How the economic market develops is another matter. In politics, we need to pay more attention to the way in which innovative entrepreneurship in Austria continues to have the opportunity to develop.
Budget Council boss Christoph Badelt, who has generally assessed the package positively, warns that there is now a lack of financial leeway before 2024, when there is a threat of a recession in Germany…
Of course, the German development is one that gives food for thought. In contrast to Germany, we have placed more emphasis on purchasing power through support measures through our middle path. At the same time, the industry has already changed and invested more in the Western Balkans. It is more resistant to these developments. But what are the Austrian facts: we cannot currently fill 200,000 vacancies. Any young person who wants to start a career as a teacher can currently opt for this job. That wasn’t always the case. Nobody talks about that. For the first time we have succeeded in reducing long-term unemployment. We reduced them by 50 percent. That’s 75,000 new jobs and 75,000 new hope. What drives us more at the moment is the fact that the US economic programs will lead to more companies investing in the United States than in Europe.
The SPÖ criticizes the fact that ÖVP Education Minister Elisabeth Gehrer advised young people not to pursue teacher training in the early 2000s. Today we have a teacher shortage. How far ahead can you think in politics? Always until the next election?
Time currently changes 180 degrees. I am a child of the seventies. A health insurance contract was the most sought-after goal for young doctors. Nowadays, doctors prefer to become doctors of their own choice and we should encourage young doctors to actually take out health insurance. We currently have too few employees. Ten to twenty years ago, the main task of politicians was to create the conditions that would make job creation possible. Part-time work arose because there was a surplus of workers. These examples show that the recipes and templates from decades past are outdated. We need to look at the issue of an aging society and the further development of the workforce from a completely new perspective. But not with old recipes like the Marxist loans that the SPÖ currently relies on. Or by wanting to build a wall around a tourist country like Austria and promising that this will make Austria safer. You must remain open to new developments. China is currently weakening, but India is flourishing. This creates a new dynamic and we must ensure that we do not lose our competitiveness.
The new election rumors refuse to go away – the rumors are also spread by your party. They always say no. But who in the ÖVP is interested in this?
And what do the rumors say? When should we vote now?
In March. As I said, there are supporters in your party for an early election date…
I don’t know whose interest it is. It’s not my interest. Werner Kogler and I have a very lasting working relationship. Contrary to the story that nothing more can happen, we have been proven wrong with the rent cap and now with the last third of the cold progression. Besides, we still have a lot to do. We are in the process of negotiating financial equality – there is a future fund, including for childcare, to close the gaps for children up to three years old.
The new polls, according to which Babler will not be present in the Chancellor’s match, do not matter?
No, we have too many serious problems to deal with. We have no time for party tactics. We are dealing with the fourth crisis of this parliamentary term. I have made a clear agreement with Werner Kogler to maintain this collaboration to solve the problems. Then people can see who practices honest politics and who does not. I believe in our strong country and that together we can overcome crises. The reason the opposition plays tactical games is because it has no responsibility and will not take responsibility when it had the chance. Keyword: rent control.
Let’s go through the projects: will the Renewable Heat Act still come?
We are on the right track, even though it is a complex subject.
You have announced that you will present all major open positions in the republic in one package. Will that still be in September?
I assume this will be resolved quickly.
Keyword: rental cap. They prevented the introduction in the spring. Now he comes. Have you missed an opportunity to reduce inflation?
If you intervene in the systems, you have to think very carefully about when you do so. During the first phase of inflation, we decided to provide enough money so that they could cope with inflation. Now I know that this has only been received to a very limited extent in people’s perception, because prices are still high and I can only afford my life as before through wage increases and anti-inflation packages. At best, we have actually increased people’s purchasing power. All calculations show this. But inflation is ubiquitous at the pump and while shopping, and therefore does not resonate with citizens. Inflation in Austria is considerably more persistent than in other EU countries. This is because the shopping cart is composed differently than, for example, in Germany. Successful tourism increases our inflation because it has a very large share of the shopping basket. Since the beginning of the year, we have achieved inflation of minus four percent – from eleven to seven percent. So the path is good. We have already withdrawn the electricity price cap, the rental price cap and fee freeze are now coming and we will continue to monitor the energy companies. If they do not pass on the reduced prices, we will take further action.
If prices are not lowered, we will increase excess profit taxes again. E-Control will also focus on the transparency of billing and cancellation options.
The Italian island of Lampedusa is currently overflowing with refugees. Are refugees still taking advantage of this opportunity until the refugee agreement with Tunisia is implemented soon?
No money has flowed to Tunisia yet. Tunisia does not yet see that the EU is serious about the agreement. We have to get things done quickly now. Then the situation will also change. We must bring the agreement to life with proactive discussions.
Why is that?
These international agreements are mainly about trust and mutual respect. Both cannot be compromised. You can’t compromise trust in the signature and you can’t show people disrespect. That is now in danger. If the deal goes through, there is a good chance that the situation will stabilize.
Will Austria introduce border controls with Italy?
Yes. The Minister of the Interior has already taken appropriate precautions during veil investigations at the Austrian-Italian border.
I am Ida Scott, a journalist and content author with a passion for uncovering the truth. I have been writing professionally for Today Times Live since 2020 and specialize in political news. My career began when I was just 17; I had already developed a knack for research and an eye for detail which made me stand out from my peers.