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03. 02. 12. - 15:22

Voves calls for cooperation

Styria’s Social Democratic (SPÖ) Governor Franz Voves has claimed Austria is going through the most difficult period since the end of the war.

Voves said yesterday (Thurs) the current situation "is as serious as it has not been since 1945". Speaking in the federal council (Bundesrat), Voves appealed to the representatives of all parties to focus on teaming up in solving Austria’s most urgent problems. He warned about continuing to quarrel with political rivals to avoid further economic setbacks for the country.

The SPÖ Styria chief made headlines last month by calling for a reduction of the federal parliament and the Bundesrat. The parliament has 183 members. The Bundesrat consists of 62 delegates. Voves said the parliament could make do with 165 members. His suggestions found wide acclaim among Social Democrats and high-ranking People’s Party (ÖVP) officials while some commentators warned about populist attempts to "make democracy less expensive".

ÖVP Lower Austria head Erwin Pröll’s call to reform the role of the federal president did not go down as well as Voves’ ideas. Pröll considered running for president in 2010 before deciding to remain governor of Lower Austria, Austria’s largest province, when his party failed to show strong support for a possible election campaign. Heinz Fischer garnered nearly 80 per cent in the ballot. The ex-SPÖ minister faced tougher competition in 2004 when he first ran for president. Fischer was backed by 52.4 per cent of Austrians who participated in the vote. Benita Ferrero-Waldner wanted to become the country’s first female president at that time. Fischer’s rivals in the election in 2010 represented far-right and ultra-conservative circles.

Voves called on Bundesrat delegates and members of the federal government coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP to take Styria as a good example for reasonable reforms. Voves and ÖVP Styria boss Hermann Schützenhöfer agreed to cooperate closely after the provincial election of 2010 which served up immense losses for both parties. They decided to trim the provincial government but also reduced the Styrian parliament’s number of seats. Cutting back investments on cultural events, museums, social institutions and the public sector resulted in harsh criticism from the opposition and unionists.

Economists have appealed to the federal SPÖ-ÖVP government to lower the budget deficit sooner than planned due to rising pressure by rating agencies. Standard & Poor’s (S&P) lowered Austria’s credit rating from the best possible grade of AAA to AA+. Hannes Swoboda, head of the European Socialists’ (PES) faction in the European Parliament (EP), criticised S&P for taking his home country’s low jobless rate into account. Bernhard Felderer, who heads the State Debt Council, claimed that American rating agencies overestimated the risks linked with Austrian banks’ activities in Hungary and other Eastern European (EE) countries. However, the economist also said the government should take the downgrading seriously and agree with the opposition on a constitutional debt brake.

SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann and ÖVP Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger recently met with Austrian National Bank (OeNB) managers and Financial Market Authority (FMA) experts to discuss the future strategy in the Eurozone crisis. Faymann and Spindelegger also consulted Pröll and Viennese SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl. Pröll and Häupl are seen as politically muscular players when it comes to deciding on how much money Austria’s nine provinces must save in the coming years to do their bit in lowering the state debt.

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