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Austria conservatives agree coalition with Greens

Sebastian Kurz, left, shaking hands with Werner Kogler, right Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Sebastian Kurz, left, announced the coalition with Green Party leader Werner Kogler late on Wednesday

Austria’s conservatives have agreed to form an unprecedented coalition government with the Greens after months of negotiations.

Sebastian Kurz’s People’s Party had been in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party until a scandal toppled the government in May.

The People’s Party came top in a snap September election, but have only now agreed a deal with the Greens.

It is the first time the left-wing party will serve in government.

“We succeeded in uniting the best of both worlds,” Mr Kurz said on Wednesday. “It is possible to protect the climate and borders.”

Greens leader Werner Kogler said Austria should now become a European leader on climate change issues, telling reporters that both parties “have possibly agreed on more than we could have imagined beforehand”.

Full details of the coalition will be announced on Thursday. But the leaders suggested they would aim to lower taxes in general – a People’s Party pledge – while bringing in higher environmental taxes, in line with Green policies.

Mr Kurz is expected to return as Austria’s chancellor, while Werner Kogler is expected to serve as vice-chancellor.

How did we get here?

After elections in 2017, the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) joined a coalition with Mr Kurz’s People’s Party (ÖVP).

But the government fell apart in May after a video sting scandal, dubbed “Ibiza-gate”.

Journalists revealed secret recordings of the Freedom Party’s leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, promising government contracts to a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch at a villa on the Spanish island.

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Media captionThe video, from, 2017, was recorded in a villa in Ibiza

Snap elections followed in September. The People’s Party came out unscathed, winning in eight of Austria’s nine federal states and increasing its share of the national vote to 37%. The Freedom Party, in contrast, only won 16%, a sharp fall from its 2017 performance.

Mr Kurz’s party however did not gain a majority and began coalition talks with smaller parties – including the Greens, who had won 14% of the vote.

Green leader Mr Kogler said straight after the September election that the next government would need to see “radical change” from the right-wing policies pursued by the previous coalition.

A Green party congress must still endorse the coalition with the People’s Party. Its roughly 280 delegates are however expected to approve the agreement.

Of Austria’s 15 ministries, the Greens are expected to take control of four.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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