Greece must be strengthened, Faymann warns

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann has claimed Austria would be worse off if the European Union (EU) allowed Greece to go bust.

The Social Democrat once more defended the financial support for the debt-stricken Eurozone member in a TV interview yesterday (Sun). Faymann pointed out Austria was a country focusing on exports and must therefore ensure stable economic circumstances within the EU. The chancellor added: “Austria has benefited from the Euro. That’s why we want a solid and strong Euro in the future too.”

Faymann did not deny that the support for Greece in form of credits and liabilities was a risk. However, he emphasised the EU had to do everything in its power to save Greece from ruin. Faymann warned that he did not want a situation in which teachers could not be paid anymore in the southern country. He also warned of developments leading to an impoverishment of the middle class. Austria has provided Greece with 1.2 billion Euros in credits so far. It would participate more than 150 million Euros if the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed on providing more financial support to the economically struggling nation.

The chancellor – who has suggested a tax on financial transactions in the 17 Eurozone members or the 27 EU states – rubbished Freedom Party (FPÖ) boss Heinz Christian Strache’s appeals to stop transferring money to Greece as “nonsensical and unserious.” Faymann spoke out against Strache’s “agitating” calls to leave the Eurozone or the EU due to the current situation. The FPÖ waded into controversy recently by issuing a poster showing a tanned person lying in a hammock. The slogan of the campaign said “Our money for our people instead of millions to Greece.”

Surveys have shown that Strache’s calls to reintroduce the Schilling as Austria’s currency do not find the approval of the majority. However, his party would garner between 27 and 30 per cent in elections were Austrians asked to the polls in the coming weeks. The SPÖ has around as much support as the right-wing opposition party.

The People’s Party (ÖVP), who forms a government with the SPÖ, is only in third place at the moment. The conservative party was recently hit by a string of corruption scandals involving former members of their European Parliament (EP) delegation. The party has also done badly in polls for months. Its performance deteriorated in April when Josef Pröll resigned as chairman due to his volatile health. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger – an outspoken opponent of gay marriages and a staunch supporter of conservative family structures – took over.

SPÖ Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl recently called on the federal coalition to show more efforts in promoting its achievements such as its fight against the economic crisis. He also suggested his fellow party members should increasingly try to “expose Strache’s lies” regarding issues like the aid for Greece, domestic crime and immigration topics.