Ship must not sink, Wallner warns

The new governor of Vorarlberg has criticised the government for its “politics of announcements”.

Markus Wallner of the People’s Party (ÖVP) – who succeeded Herbert Sausgruber as head of the western province in December 2011 – said yesterday (Thurs) the federal government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and ÖVP must reset its course. He appealed to the coalition to stop concentrating on announcements and slogans. Wallner warned that “the whole ship will sink” if the federal government failed to cooperate more closely with the provincial parliaments.

Wallner’s statements might also refer to the government’s disputed decision to consider possible revenues from a tax on financial transactions and a taxation agreement with Switzerland. Both measures are unlikely to come into effect within the coming years if at all, political commentators and economists have warned.

SPÖ and ÖVP hope to rake in hundreds of millions of Euros a year following the planned creation of a levy on cross-country financial transactions and stock market deals in Europe. The group of European Union (EU) members which reject the idea were joined by Germany, the continent’s politically and economically most influential country earlier this week. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble declared the engagement of his country for such a tax as overdue to the ongoing arguments concerning its reasonability and efficiency.

The Austrian government is determined to keep fighting for a tax on financial transactions. It also hopes for a settlement with Switzerland in the near future. SPÖ and ÖVP want to set up a tax on the money many Austrians allegedly hoard in Swiss bank accounts to benefit from the non-EU member’s low taxes and high banking secrecy. Germany approached the Swiss government regarding German citizens’ assets already in 2011.

Several new political movements have been established in the past months as a reaction to the worsening reputation of the government. SPÖ and ÖVP are doing badly in public opinion polls these days. Their continuing internal conflicts, an alleged lack of leadership skills, corruption accusations against incumbent and former members of the parties and the widespread disagreement with the latest savings package are seen as the decisive triggers of this trend.

Former Green Party Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Johannes Voggenhuber co-heads Mein Österreich (My Austria), a group calling for more democracy, free media and independent juridical authorities. The movement’s ideas found strong acclaim by Austrians on the internet. Reports have it that a lack of funding could keep Mein Österreich from participating in next year’s federal election.

Frank Stronach, the founder of Austrian-Canadian car parts manufacturer Magna International, declared his willingness to financially support a new political party organised by young people with the “right political programme”. The Styrian entrepreneur said he could imagine investing “several million Euros”. He told newspaper Die Presse: “We need a simple and fair taxation system. I suggest a flat rate. Investments in Austria should not be taxed. Like this, we could create jobs. Employees should benefit from their employers’ successes. This would ensure everyone follows the same goals.”