In an attempt to redeem itself in the eyes of the population, Austria’s ruling People’s Party (ÖVP) has unveiled part of its “Future Plan 2030.” The party has lost some half of its support base since 2020 due to, at least in part, its draconian COVID-19 restrictions, proposed vaccine mandates, and inability to stem migration flows.
With much of its support base having flocked to the national-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), which takes a harder line on immigration, the ÖVP appears to be trying to signal to Austrians that it has the political will to deal with the problem.
Following Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s “Speech on the Future of the Nation” last spring, when the plan was announced, the first details of the ÖVP’s future plan—which outlines the party’s alleged intention to reduce social benefits for migrants so as to reduce immigration pull factors—has been made available to the Austria Press Agency.
“If we don’t act, we’ll have to watch the social system become an ever-growing pull factor and more and more people come to Austria, not to find protection or work here, but to make a good life for themselves to be financed at the expense of the Austrian taxpayer. This would endanger social peace in Austria,” a quote from the future plan reads.
The FPÖ has long placed the issue of mass migration and the societal problems that it creates at the center of its political program. Now, with its latest signaling, the ÖVP appears to be taking a page out of its right-wing competitor’s playbook.
The ÖVP’s plan to slash social benefits for migrants and crack down on abuses of the system is not new. The idea was first presented to the public in Nehammer’s speech in March, when he suggested that social welfare payments to immigrants ought to be “cut by 50%,” until they have lived in the country for five years, which would bring payments from €1,054 a month down to €527.
“Austria must not become a magnet for economic migrants,” Nehammer said.
The unveiling of a section of the plan—a draft of the social benefits chapter—at this time, for some, is a key signal that the ruling party is not only gearing up for Austria’s legislative elections next year but that it’s seeking to recover the scores of its former supporters who now intend to vote for the national-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
As polling figures have revealed consistently for several months, the FPÖ is by far the most popular party in Austria. According to an INSA poll conducted earlier this month, the FPÖ would garner nearly a third (30%) of the national vote if elections were held this weekend.
The ÖVP’s plan has been received with sharp criticism from the FPÖ. Michael Schnedlitz, the party’s general secretary, called the plan “bizarre,” saying that “the future plan for 2030 of the still-ÖVP-Chancellor Nehammer is like thinking about which car I will buy in 100 years.”
“The ÖVP can write as many papers [as they like] for Nehammer, the Austrians no longer believe this party. It’s over. The voters will decide what to think of such a construct of untruths and deceptions,” said Schnedlitz, who again called for new elections to bring an end to the current ruling government.