National Council: Endpoint for U-Committees –

The ÖVP found no scandals after the U-Committee held with the Federal Covid-19 Financing Agency (COFAG) and a possible priority for entrepreneurs. Klaus Fürlinger (ÖVP) concluded that the financial administration was working “excellently” and that there was no political interference. One should be as proud of Austrian entrepreneurs as the national football team, after all, they provide jobs and pay taxes.

Nina Tomaselli (Greens) and Guy Jan Greiner (SPÖ) spoke about the ÖVP-led finance ministry’s tax preference treatment. So Tomaselli wants to make the system more resilient against “shell players” like Cigna founder Rene Benko. The ÖVP will defend itself against the package offered by Justice Minister Alma Zadik (Greens), who criticized her coalition partner.

Yannick Shetty (NEOS) spoke out against Greiner for tougher requirements to fill positions and fairer taxation of millionaires, among other things. Shetty and Christian Hafeneker (FPÖ) also found the Greens involved in the matter. After all, there was also COFAG’s green executive director, according to the former.

The final report critiques the COFAG model

In the report, the investigating judge found no formal preferential treatment when it comes to CoV financial support for billionaires close to the ÖVP. However, the party-independent preference for billionaires may be reduced. The report takes a critical view of the outsourced COFAG’s model for controlling subsidies – which would have been legally compliant and more cost-effective to process them through state administrative structures. No bonus or dividend should be paid while receiving financing.

Criticism of FPÖ, Hafenecker sees ÖVP-SPÖ “covenant”.

The U-Commission on “Red-Blue Abuse of Power”, initiated only by the ÖVP, dealt almost exclusively with the period when the FPÖ was in government. There was also strong criticism of the FPÖ from other parties. Points of criticism include the allocation of advertisements by FPÖ ministries to right-wing media, the search for housing in the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT) and the “patient billion” during the health insurance reform. , according to former health minister Pete Hardinger-Klein (FPÖ), this is a “marketing stunt”.

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Andreas Hanger (ÖVP) said that there is still too much to investigate on the topic of red abuse of power, and not enough time. FPÖ General Secretary Hafeneker called the U-Committee unconstitutional and specifically criticized the SPÖ and NEOS for participating in it. He suspected that the “deal” between the SPÖ and the ÖVP would leave the “abuse of red power” unscrutinized.

Invitation to Russia-U Committee renewed

The Greens and NEOS called for an inquiry into the espionage case surrounding Russia and former BVT officer Egisto Ott; The judges who heard the case also suggest such a thing in the report. According to the report, the allegations against Giggling have not been proven, for example in the case of the think tank. In both reports, trial judges argued for additional powers – for example, to subpoena people to provide information.

Before the debate on the U-Committees, there was a heated debate on the climate crisis. In their current time of organizing, Greens have appealed to follow the recommendations of science and promote climate protection. There was criticism from other parties – and the EU restructuring regulation caused fresh friction between the ÖVP and the Greens.

COFAG is deactivated

But the National Council is all about resolutions – there are about 60 on the agenda by Friday. Also on the U-Committee thing: it was decided that the ever-controversial COFAG would be disbanded on July 31. However, the opposition did not like the way it was handled, which is why in the end only the ÖVP and the Greens agreed: “The COFAG bureaucratic monster is finally being buried,” said FPÖ force Hubert Fuchs, but regretted that it had returned as a reborn. Section 1 of the Ministry of Finance.

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That is, incomplete financial applications are transferred to the responsibility of the Finance Minister as the processing agency. In addition, the Minister of Finance accepts the guarantees provided by COFAG to solve the liquidity difficulties of companies up to 300 million euros and to maintain debt.

“Pile of Pieces” and “Black Box”

Fuchs was annoyed that a separate committee had been created for the task. SPÖ finance spokesman Jan Krainer gave another reason for his group’s no-vote. According to him, it is not sufficiently determined that all COFAG data and documents will be preserved for possible sub-groups. Even NEOS budget spokeswoman Karin Doppelbauer thought the COFAG “pile of broken pieces” was now being cleaned up. But she also doesn’t want the details of the process.

The three opposition parties again used the debate to fundamentally criticize COFAG. For example, Greiner called it a “black box” without parliamentary control. Doppelbauer cited overfunding and payment errors. The coalition saw it quite differently. Both Karlheinz Kopf for the ÖVP and Jakob Schwarz for the Greens emphasized the success of the government’s CoV economic policy.

Change in zone

The decision-making process began with the zoning change. With the passage of the constitutional amendment in the National Council against the votes of the FPÖ and NEOS, the states will have the opportunity to demand land restitution in the public interest. The cooling-off phase already applicable to the President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court has been extended to ordinary judges.

The social package was decided

Meanwhile, a new million in aid to communities has been decided. According to the resolution supported by the coalition, the SPÖ and the FPÖ, 300 million euros will be distributed in January 2025. Also, 500 million euros should be made available for a new Municipal Investment Program (KIP), reducing the co-financing share provided by municipalities from 50 to 20 percent.

Fire departments can also expect more money. The decision was taken unanimously in the National Council. So the “guaranteed amount” for fire departments from the disaster fund should be increased from 95 million to 140 million euros per year. Also, people affected by landslides and other vertical ground movements will get support from the fund in future.

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New Powers for Executive Branch

Coalition votes also gave additional powers to the executive branch. Among other things, license plate recognition devices will be reintroduced and special search warrants (ie bag searches) will be expanded. In the future, it should be waived not only for certain major events, but also for “particularly vulnerable” facilities.

Legal advice for asylum seekers has been revised

The National Council also fixed legal advice for asylum seekers, which was replaced by the VfGH. Only the FPÖ voted against the new regulations. Importantly, this is to strengthen the board’s independence, for example by no longer having a majority of the internal affairs department on the supervisory board, and giving advisers special protection against dismissal.

70 million has been earmarked for the construction of a new gas pipeline

A financial injection for a new gas pipeline aimed at reducing dependence on Russia was unanimously approved. In particular, 70 million euros are to be allocated to the “WAG area ring” as part of the West Austrian gas pipeline project. The section between Oberkappel and Bad Leonfelden will be extended to include a 40-kilometer parallel pipeline. Although all parliamentary groups supported the proposal, the SPÖ and FPÖ criticized the fact that it took so long to deal with the proposal.

Flood Protection is co-funded by RHESI

The National Council unanimously funded the RHESI flood protection project through an international agreement with Switzerland. The project on the Rhine in Vorarlberg is intended to protect the region from a 300-year flood. A 20-year construction period starting in mid-2027 will take 25 percent of Austria’s share, at a maximum of 274 million euros over 25 years. The central government provides 820 million euros.

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