hefty fines for those who do not comply with the vaccination obligation – Corriere.it

hefty fines for those who do not comply with the vaccination obligation – Corriere.it
hefty fines for those who do not comply with the vaccination obligation – Corriere.it
from Paolo Valentino

The new Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg: With us the opposition no vax, that’s why we need the obligation. Our goal is to give the vaccinated as much freedom as possible. Saving the ski season? I hope so

VIENNA – The Austrian peculiarity in the pandemic is the presence in Parliament of a political force that acts irresponsibly against science and feeds collective fears.

For forty-seven days Alexander Schallenberg Chancellor of Austria, after his predecessor, Sebastian Kurz, resigned overwhelmed by a political scandal. In just under two months, the 52-year-old former foreign minister, a career diplomat, had to face the most virulent fourth wave of the pandemic in Europe.

Mr Chancellor, Austria is the only European country so far to have reintroduced a tough lockdown and the first to have approved a law on compulsory vaccination. Why did he do it?
My belief has always been to convince the unvaccinated to get vaccinated instead of limiting the freedom of those who get immunized. But the numbers of the contagion grew exponentially and we were forced to introduce a national lockdown, albeit limited in time. We will evaluate the effects next Thursday and the agreement to terminate it within 20 days. Our goal remains to give the vaccinated as much freedom as possible. I understand that it is difficult to differentiate, it is the task of a politician to unite the people. But in a pandemic, there is a difference between who can resist the virus because he is immunized and who refuses to be vaccinated. As for compulsory vaccination, perhaps too long I hoped that it would be possible to persuade as many Austrians as possible to do it voluntarily. It was not only the government that was important to explain, but also the experts, the doctors, the media. Unfortunately it did not work and with a 66% share of the entire population vaccinated we will never get out of the vicious circle of new waves and new debates on the lockdown. Each lockdown is a heavy interference in the fundamental freedoms of our citizens. Compared to the vaccination obligation, less interference. I would have liked to have done it differently, sad. But Europe, the heart of open, affluent and industrial societies, is once again the hotbed of the pandemic.

FP, the far-right opposition, accuses it of wanting to establish a dictatorship.

The biggest difference between the Austrian political landscape and that of other European countries is that the third party of our Parliament is openly and vocally against vaccination, denying that it is the only way out of the pandemic. This multiplies skepticism and doubts. I don’t think FP speaks on behalf of the unvaccinated third party. Other factors play: underestimation of the virus, fear. We must also recognize that we have done many things wrong: at the beginning we talked about two doses, we did not know a third would be necessary. Let us then recall the Astra Zeneca case and the debate on risks.

How do you want to implement compliance with the vaccination obligation?

The idea will go live on February 1, 2022. First, all those not vaccinated will receive a notification inviting them to do so. Those who do not do so by that date will have to pay a hefty fine. But from my point of view this is the extreme ratio. I hope our persuasion work pushes people not to wait until the last moment.

Have your measures and announcements already taken effect?

I see the first positive developments but the numbers remain high. The very serious situation. The agreement to end the lockdown on 10 December and I hope we will be in a position to do so, but only for the vaccinated part of the population. Even after that day, entry to all clubs or public events will remain forbidden to non-vaccinated people, who push infections high and represent 80% of the most serious cases.

Will you be able to save the ski season?
“I hope so. I have already said that it will be a 2G Christmas: those who are not vaccinated or cured will not have access to ski lifts, slopes, shelters and hotels. But we must also monitor what is happening in neighboring countries: Germany is initiating a lockdown. One thing clear to me, I will not accept travel restrictions. The difference with 2020 are the vaccines: why should someone who has done the third dose be limited in movement? We will push for this point at the European level ”.

Why is vaccine resistance stronger in Austria and Germany and in particular in mountain areas or in the regions of the former GDR?
I am not an expert. There are social, historical reasons. There is certainly a part of the German-speaking population who looks at science with skepticism and prefers to heal themselves with natural methods, the so-called Natural medicine. But then again, we have political forces that act against science. Last but not least, there are our mistakes, of all. We will never get 100% vaccinated, but we can get closer with a targeted campaign. There are also other variants, such as the Omicron against which we are acting quickly: no entry for those coming from South Africa, stop on direct flights, appeal to those who have returned in recent days from that country or from neighboring countries to register and be tested.

The Belarusian dictator Lukashenko blackmails Europe, amassing thousands of refugees on its eastern borders. What to do?
We must make it clear that the European Union does not allow itself to be blackmailed. Lukashenko’s is a cynical abuse of the weakest of the weak. Austria alongside Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. We need to help them financially to install the necessary infrastructure at the borders. We also need to act in countries of origin such as Turkey, Iraq and others to stop flights taking refugees to Belarus. We must impose personal sanctions against Lukashenko and his thugs who organized this human trafficking, a horrible crime in the 21st century.

This takes time, shouldn’t we welcome those desperate ones in the meantime? I know their suffering. But we need to put pressure on Lukashenko who created this situation to take them back and treat them humanely. Otherwise we will prove to the soul traffickers that you can create these situations and Europe will yield.

Why should Europe finance walls and barriers?

I know the debate, but it is too narrow. I said this at the last European Council. First, we need to use existing infrastructure funds to defend external borders. Second, I don’t see why Polish or Lithuanian taxpayers have to foot the bill for controlling common borders. Europe is a home, its doors must be secure. We must support all the countries that are on the doorstep of Schengen, including Italy, Spain and Greece. It is not a barrier or a wall, but drones and other infrastructures with which to effectively control the borders. If we cannot decide who enters and who does not, the traffickers will have an easy time. I said yes to the Council’s decision because it is not fair for Italian taxpayers to bear the cost of looking at the maritime borders of Europe. The same is true for Poland, which deserves our solidarity.

It could be argued that solidarity must be two-way and that Poland is among those who have not agreed to take a single refugee in the so-called redistribution mechanism.

Poland has welcomed more than 1 million Ukrainian refugees. I speak on behalf of a country that has more than three times the number of refugees in Italy per capita.

I didn’t mention Austria.
I just want to say that we too suffer from illegal migration. The Commission proposal strikes a sensitive intellectual balance between solidarity and responsibility. But there will always be countries that will not accept redistribution. But they can contribute differently. I warn against trying this approach again, a politically explosive and very emotional issue. At this stage we have to say that an undemocratic leader is trying to blackmail us and that Europe’s duty – 450 million people and 27 countries – to stand firmly on Poland’s side.

Vladimir Putin is subordinating the extra supplies of Russian gas to Europe to the final s upon the entry into operation of Nord Stream 2. Not another form of blackmail?

With or without Nord Stream 2, we are somewhat addicted to Russian gas. A fact. I agree that in the long run we need to reduce this dependence on Moscow. But I don’t think the Nord Stream 2 makes it up. On the contrary, by opening a new path, it diversifies the supply routes. However, Russia has always respected the agreements, the problem now that it is not increasing supplies. I think that in any case we must proceed with the pipeline under the Baltic.

Is the Next Generation EU a one-off action or a model for the future? And what is your position on the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact?
The Recovery Fund was a positive sign that proves the EU’s ability to act in times of crisis. larger than the Marshall Plan, the largest funding package ever decided in Europe. But it was born of a crisis and from my time-limited point of view and cannot be a model for something we could do together again in the future. We don’t want a permanent debt or fiscal union. As for the Pact, we are all in an extraordinary situation and it was right to suspend it. But the reasons for its existence are still there. For this we will have to return to budgetary discipline, without which there will be no push to reform pension, health and labor market systems, all of which need to be addressed for our aging societies. I appreciate that the future German government is sending signals that it wants to return to the Pact, perhaps making it more effective and transparent.

You were called chancellor by accident. Do you feel precarious? And what will be the future of your predecessor Sebastian Kurz?

The way I became chancellor surprised me too. I didn’t look for this post. I was foreign minister and had a good relationship, among others, with Luigi Di Maio. I can’t wait to be able to continue it also with Prime Minister Mario Draghi. We actually had a serious political crisis, a real earthquake, and former Chancellor Kurz resigned. But I was sworn in as chancellor and, in compliance with the Constitution, I intend to remain until the end of the legislature in 2023, fully exercising my prerogatives. Kurz leads the party (the VP ed) and the parliamentary group. Together we work well. I expect all the allegations concerning him to be investigated and denied by the judiciary. But in this situation, I will do my best to make the government work at full capacity.

Angela Merkel is about to leave the scene: how will she be remembered in Europe and what do you expect from the new German government?
Angela Merkel has left a strong footprint on European integration over the past 16 years. He has always tried to forge compromises, to get people around the table, to find common ground. it was a very European approach and this is his legacy. As for the next government, I have high expectations. Germany is crucial for the Union and a very important neighbor for us. There are very interesting things in the government program. I am happy to see that the Ministry of Finance will go to the FDP, which is good news from our point of view. The Greens have a very European line and this will be useful because the integration process needs a new push. You see, I am in favor of having a geopolitical commission, but before we start talking about the Greater Middle East or the Indo Pacific, and this is something I share with my Italian colleagues, we need to talk about the Western Balkans, the Eastern partnership, the North Africa, that is, our neighbors. Our geopolitical task over the next few years is to export our way of life to those countries, making them permanent partners, in the case of the Western Balkans, full members of the EU.

November 28, 2021 (change November 28, 2021 | 07:12)


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