Coalition talks in Austria make slow progress

 28 Jan 2017 - 2:49


Vienna: Talks between Austria’s two centrist coalition parties aimed at setting policy priorities and averting a government collapse are making progress, Chancellor Christian Kern said yesterday , but he cancelled weekend travel plans as negotiations dragged on.
Kern, a Social Democrat, said on Tuesday he wanted an agreement on concrete policies for the remaining year and a half of the coalition’s term. Failure to reach a deal by then, he suggested, might mean the end of the coalition and lead to a snap parliamentary election.
He has since retreated from those comments, saying there will be no snap election, but meetings that run into small hours have continued as two sides try to reach an agreement.
A snap election would most likely play into hands of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), which is running first in opinion polls, helped by widespread frustration with a coalition government that many voters believe is ineffective.
“Little time remains for what we hope to achieve and it could well be that this lasts beyond the coming day,” Kern told reporters as talks broke. “There was progress on some points. There was no progress on others.” A spokeswoman for Kern said he had postponed a visit to Israel and West Bank that was due to begin tomorrow because of the talks.
Kern has sought to project a more modern and dynamic image than his predecessor, Werner Faymann, who resigned after an FPO candidate won the first round of presidential election.
At an event this month, Kern announced a 150-page list of proposals on issues ranging from cutting unemployment to reforming education.