Austria’s Conservatives to crack down on climate activists

11 Jan 2023

Ahead of upcoming elections in Lower Austria, Conservatives are focusing on further crackdowns on climate activists by implementing stricter sentences.

The elections are taking place on 29th January in the country’s largest state, Lower Austria, at present governed by the conservative ÖVP. The party seeking a key victory in the state is pushing for tougher penalties for so-called “climate hacks.”

While activists’ concerns are plausible, “I am firmly convinced that the means are simply the wrong ones”, according to Johanna Mikl-Leitner, leader of the electioneering Lower Austria ÖVP.

She added that there was no reason for “obstructing rescue organisations and thus endangering human lives.” Mikl-Leitner said the state would push for legislation making climate protests a more serious crime, following on from comparable examples seen in Germany.

The Lower Austria ÖVP leader went on to say that criminal law in Austria limited action to “after the fact.” However, “we don’t want something to happen first, we don’t want people to die first,” she continued. The offence of “dangerous intervention” in traffic implemented in Germany could be a potential model, she stated.

As soon as the law is drafted, it would then be submitted to the justice ministry, Euractiv reports. States in Austria are unable to regulate criminal matters, unlike in other policy areas like the buildings sector.

“The offence is quite narrow and hardly applicable to the climate activists,” said University of Vienna professor Ingeborg Zerbes to the Austrian daily Standard.