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Austria's €290m plan to fight terror

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Austria's €290m plan to fight terror
Reinhold Mitterlehner (l) and Werner Faymann (r) announce the package of measures. Photo: APA/ROLAND SCHLAGER
07:45 CET+01:00
Austria's government has announced a plan to spend nearly €290 million (US$335m) to combat terror over the next four years.

After a week of intensive discussion triggered by the tragic events in Paris, the Austrian government has announced a package of various measures intended to help it in the fight against possible terrorist attacks, it announced on Tuesday.

The largest part consisting of €126m (US$146m) will go into hiring new personnel with special skills, including specialists in cyber security, crime fighting and forensics, according to a report from the Austrian Press Agency (APA).

In a press conference held by Chancellor Werner Faymann and Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner in Vienna, they explained that €29m would go on specialized equipment, such as helmets, body armour and weapons and up to five armoured vehicles for special forces.  

Technology investment was also planned, with €34m targeting special IT technology upgrades, such as the Schengen Information System database and evidence collection  software.

There was early discussion of a special helicopter upgrade for police special anti-terror forces (Cobra), however discussions with the Austrian army are ongoing about sharing their resources for rapid reaction deployment.

Communications and infrastructure investments were also planned, with €13m and €16m respectively to be spent in those areas.

In a tacit acknowledgement that much of the threat stems from Muslim extremists, €12m was allocated to deradicalization efforts, including awareness education.

Meanwhile cyber security upgrades to protect against potential critical infrastructure hacking was also announced, with €25m allocated for this area.

Faymann said he was pleased about the "rapid, decisive, and cooperative demeanour" of the coalition government.

Mitterlehner said the security package was a consequence of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and as a buffer against stronger forms of radicalisation.

He added that it was only a part of government measures, which also include the banning of terrorist symbols and stricter laws.

According to a report in the Kurier newspaper, an analyst believes that the investment is almost entirely dedicated to fighting terrorism rather than attempting to seriously tackle prevention.  

"The whole package is mainly designed for the furnishing of special forces and less on the prevention of terrorism" said Gert-René Polli, former head of the Federal Agency for State Protection and Counter Terrorism.

Most of the money is being allocated to the needs of the Cobra special forces, which are used exclusively in case of terrorist attacks, he added. In his view, more money should be spent on prevention.

Police insiders said that significant parts of the equipment requested by police have been needed for some time, but the political will didn't exist previously to make the necessary investment.

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