Austria News in brief

‘Sideletter’ leak stirs up storm in Austria

| 2022-02-02 < 1 min read

‘Sideletter’ leak stirs up storm in Austria

Reading Time: < 1 minutes

The Austrian Greens party made secret, parallel arrangements when it signed a coalition deal with the conservative OVP party in 2020, according to a newly leaked document. The supplementary agreement, or “Sideletter”, was unknown to party members and even Greens politicians who had co-negotiated the coalition deal. One of the most contentious details of the document involves the Greens accepting a ban on school teachers wearing headscarfs, in exchange for a position on the board of state broadcaster ORF.

High-ranking Greens politicians responding angrily to news of the Sideletter, which they believe leaked from the inner circle of former chancellor Sebastian Kurz. “The behaviour of those who agreed on this with the OVP is completely unacceptable,” said Greens coalition negotiator Harald Walser, who called the move “jaw-dropping”. His party colleague Birgit Hebein tweeted: “It is irritating that substantive positions were negotiated through the Sideletter but were not presented to members of the negotiating team nor to federal congress delegates.”

After the Greens and the conservative OVP finalised their coalition agreement in 2020, Greens party leader and now Vice-Chancellor of Austria Werner Kogler presented the deal for formal approval at the Greens party congress without any mention of the side arrangements. He and his colleague Sigrid Maurer, who also knew about the Sideletter, argued that a headscarf ban would be unconstitutional, making the agreement an empty promise, as it would not actually pass into law.