Austria to close embassies

People’s Party (ÖVP) Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said he has been “forced” into closing some Austrian embassies due to cutbacks ordered by his ministry for the coming years.The minister said today (Mon): “I have not got any other option than closing some embassies.”Spindelegger refused to reveal how many Austrian representations abroad will be shut and whether he already knows which ones will be affected.”None of the employees will find out information by reading it in the newspapers first,” he said, adding that his main aim was to come to agreements with the affected diplomats and staff.Spindelegger said only in July that he opposed suggestions to shut down one of the over 100 Austrian embassies despite the European Union’s (EU) plans to increase its representation around the world.The minister also made clear that he would ensure none of Austria’s embassies in the EU will be closed. This statement came shortly after Sweden shut its representations in four EU states.Speaking in general about the governments budget plans which were presented at the weekend, the foreign minister described the cutbacks as “painful”.”I see no alternatives,” Spindelegger added.The coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and ÖVP announced on Saturday that taxes on mineral oil and tobacco would rise next year in a bid to reduce the budget deficit from 3.9 per cent last year to less than three per cent in 2013.The coalition made clear that subsidies for families will be slashed, adding that it planned to introduce a tax on flight tickets.Around six months ago ÖVP Finance Minister Josef Pröll said that the foreign ministry must must reduce spending by 15.7 million Euros year on year in 2011. Pröll – who ordered all ministries to slash their expenses over the next three years – also said that Spindelegger must ensure 24.8 million Euros less expenditure in 2012 compared to 2010, with another 3.8 million Euros less in 2013.The opposition Freedom Party (FPÖ) branded the plans a “Halloween budget” which hits the middle class and families worst, while the Greens called the plans “uninspired and unambitious”.