Saturday

24th Feb 2024

Austria wants to discriminate against EU workers

EU citizens should be barred from taking jobs if a qualified Austrian has applied to the same position, says Austria's centre-left chancellor.

Chancellor Christian Kern on Wednesday (11 January) accused east European nations of "exporting their joblessness to Austria" and wants local employers to prioritise Austrians unless no other candidate is available.

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"That means - only if there is no suitable unemployed person in the country can [a job] be given to new arrivals without restriction," he said.

Kern was speaking in Wels, a town whose mayor hails from the right-wing populist FPO. The FPO has seen a historic resurgence in support despite narrowly losing the presidential run-off in December.

Kern's statement was made during a presentation of a 10-year economic plan, and aims to woo the anti-immigrant voters back into his social democrat party ahead of national elections.

But it also directly clashes with the free movement of workers, viewed as sacrosanct throughout much of the EU.

Articles in the treaty of the European Union uphold the right for any EU national to be treated on equal footing with nationals of that member states.

Kern's pledge would allow employers to discriminate against people based exclusively on nationality.

Austria's asylum cap

He also backed government plans to cut Austria's asylum application cap of 35,000 per year to 17,000.

The cap, first introduced in January last year, allows authorities to impose an emergency decree to turn away people at the border should the threshold be breached.

The 35,000 cap was not reached last year but the move to further reduce it was announced by the head of the People's Party (OVP), a junior member of the coalition government headed by Kern.

"We want to halve this cap, we want to reduce it to around 17,000," said OVP leader Reinhold Mitterlehner according to Reuters news agency.

Analysis

Austrian far-right: beaten, but not defeated

Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer's loss to Green-backed Alexander Van der Bellen sent relief across Europe, but his party is still in a good position to head a government in the future.

EU free movement must be curbed, UK says

British leader Theresa May has said free movement of EU workers to Britain cannot continue as in the past, while visiting Slovakia and Poland on Thursday.

Opinion

2024 will be a momentous year for election observers

Our role is not to 'judge' the elections, but observation does provide an additional level of transparency, scrutiny and public accountability, writes Matteo Mecacci, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

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