Europe's first Christian Democrat-Green coalition government is in Vienna

Published 02.01.2020 17:03
Updated 03.01.2020 00:44

On the last day of 2019, on Tuesday, we shared with our readers the news that an Austrian People's Party (ÖVP)-Greens coalition government was about to be formed in Austria. In fact, we had made some comments and given some names regarding who might end up as ministers from each party. Our predictions were mostly proven right.

Starting next week, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, a brand new government formed from "turquoise and green" colors will begin working in Austria. This will not only be something new for Austria, but it will also be a first for Europe. A coalition of Christian Democrats and Greens on the national level has never occurred until this day.

Austria did not end up with such a coalition easily.

For 47 days, representatives of both parties under the leadership of Sebastian Kurz of the ÖVP and Werner Kogler of the Greens conducted negotiations. They managed to prevent information from leaking to the public regarding the weekslong negotiations. By doing so, they managed to prevent any potential outbursts by the party bases that are, in fact, not very fond of each other.

During the last days of 2019, they informed the public that the coalition would be formed.

In a news conference on the 25th anniversary of Austria's EU membership, on Wednesday, Jan. 1, Kurz and Kogler announced that they would be forming the country's new government. It is important to mention that this coalition did not occur out of necessity. If the ÖVP had wished, it could have easily formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) or the Freedom Party (FPÖ), which wasn't yet disintegrated at the time, instead of Greens. On the other hand, if the Greens had wished, they could also have easily taken up the role of the opposition to which they are accustomed. However, they didn't.

The ÖVP-Greens coalition government was formed with the decision of both sides. Maybe not only for Austria but for Europe in general, starting with Germany, there was a need for trying out a new coalition model to compete with the populist parties. That model is now going to be tried out for the first time in Austria.

On Wednesday night, I watched Kurz and Kogler speaking at the news conference. Both gave meaningful messages regarding this matter.

When Kurz said that "it should be possible to protect both the environment and borders," he was stating that both parties' sensitivities could be addressed at a common level. Kogler, on the other hand, underlined the fact that the parties have come into an agreement not only by considering each party's disparate voter base but by thinking about the entire country, as he reiterated the Austrian president's words, stating, "Those who love their country do not break it up."

Not only in Austria but in Europe in general, society has differing sensitivities and views on the subjects of refugees and migrants and the steps that should be taken for the preservation of the environment. The conservatives and greens, in particular, are two parties that represent the two sides on these matters. When viewed in this context, the collaboration of these two parties that are representing these two sides will increase the chances of agreeing on these matters. As a result, the populist parties' chances of abusing deadlocks will decrease. Because of this, the new coalition method is one that needs to be tried out.

From this perspective, this development in Austria is a pleasing step.

Last Tuesday, we shared the names that were expected to become ministers from both parties. Our speculations on this matter have been proven correct. Kurz is the new government's prime minister. And, the vice president obviously became Kogler. One minister, however, is continuing his duty following the government shift: Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Schallenberg. Schallenberg, who was the foreign affairs minister of Prime Minister Brigitte Bierlein's transitory government of June 3, 2019, has the trust of both parties as an experienced and successful diplomat. At the same time, Schallenberg, who is quite close to Kurz, is going to be the new government's only minister without a party.

As it was expected, the ÖVP will be shouldering the duties of the ministries responsible for areas such as foreign affairs, internal affairs, defense, the economy, Europe, the treasury, family, agriculture, integration and education. Greens, on the other hand, are leading the ministries responsible for justice, social security, health, culture, arts, sports, and environment, transportation and energy (which are gathered under a single ministry). Since the subject of Europe is quite important for both parties, members of Parliament from both parties that have worked as European Parliament members are taking on the responsibility for this subject. I am fairly sure that the EU Commission and the European Parliament are going to have some sympathy for this new Austrian government.

Following the new trend in Europe in recent years, the new government is also giving the post of defense minister to a woman politician: Klaudia Tanner. I am pretty sure that Mrs. Tanner is not going to have any problems with the Austrian Armed Forces, as a politician who has the trust of farmers, most of whom are men, due to her position as the administrator of over 15,000 farmers as the executive of the Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) Farmers Union.

If the 276 delegates of the Greens were to approve of the coalition, as is expected, in their extended federal administration council meeting on Friday and in their federal congress that will be conducted Saturday in Salzburg, there will be no obstacles left facing this government.

As we have written above, starting from Jan. 7, a very interesting period is beginning in Austria and in Europe.

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