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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

A group of tourists with bicycles outside the Hofburg palace at Heldenplatz (Heroes square) where Austria's new chancellor will be sworn in on Monday.
A group of tourists with bicycles outside the Hofburg palace at Heldenplatz (Heroes square) where Austria's new chancellor will be sworn in on Monday. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Find out what's going on in Austria on Monday, with The Local's short roundup of today's news.

New Chancellor of Austria sworn in on Monday

Austria’s Foreign Minister Schallenberg is set to be sworn in as new head of government on Monday, as Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen announces Austria’s “government crisis is over”. The inauguration will take place at 13:00 in the Hofburg in Vienna.

Former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz stepped down on Saturday after he was implicated in a corruption scandal, in which he and his inner circle were accused of using public money to generate positive media coverage and favourable opinion polls in tabloid newspapers. 

Kurz said he was innocent of the charges, but wanted to step down in order to ensure “stability” for Austria. 

The German newspaper FAZ comments Alexander Schallenberg is a close and loyal advisor to Kurz who supports the ÖVP party line and will not become a threat to Austria’s former leader. 

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Greens Vice Chancellor Werner Kogel “happy to open new chapter” 

Alexander Schallenberg met separately with both Austria’s Federal President and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogel on Sunday. Kogel is also the  head of the Green party serving in  Austria’s ruling coalition with Kurz’s party the ÖVP. The Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports that Kogel said he was happy to “open a new chapter in intergovernmental cooperation”.

Kurz to receive parliamentary immunity, which he says he will overturn

Kurz’s resignation as Chancellor will see him move from the government into the parliamentary benches, whilst also taking over as ÖVP party chairman. The move will see Kurz receive parliamentary immunity, which has led some opposition politicians to claim he has made the move to avoid prosecution.

This led the ÖVP to issue a statement on Saturday evening advising that Kurz will shortly apply for a waiver of immunity. The German Der Spiegel newspaper says Kurz’s resignation and move to parliament is nothing other than a preparation for a “comeback at the earliest opportunity”, and that in the meantime, Kurz remains the most powerful player in Austrian politics. 

No more compulsory tests or masks in schools in Vorarlberg

Vorarlberg is the only state in Austria to relax rules on mask wearing and testing in schools as of Monday. Unvaccinated teachers will still have to show a negative PCR test once a week, and all students will have the opportunity to do antigen tests at school voluntarily for the Ninja pass, which gives access to bars and restaurants in Austria.

The change comes due to the low seven-day incidence in the region and the comparatively low rate of Covid-19 patients in the intensive care units. Children and teachers will not have to wear masks in school.

Austrian broadcaster ORF comments the move is surprising as Vorarlberg remains “high risk” or orange according to the Covid-19 traffic light commission, unlike Lower Austria which is “medium risk” (yellow) and Burgenland which is “low risk” (yellow green). Austria’s Covid-19 commission will monitor the results of lifting restrictions in Vorarlberg as a test case for the rest of the country, ORF reports.

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