Corona measures will be debated in Parliament today, Tuesday. At a special presidential conference in the early afternoon, the President of the National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP), wants to try again to make sure that all members of parliament wear FFP2 masks. He received prior support from Federal Council Chairman Christian Buchmann (ÖVP). The refusal to wear masks by some FPÖ MPs has provoked heated debates at recent meetings. A mask requirement with sanctions cannot be imposed, as this would hinder the exercise of the right to stand as a candidate.
Buchmann said in a broadcast that the denial of masks by members of the Federal Council and members of the National Council would not be acceptable if the pandemic continued: “The effectiveness of masks is not disputed outside the circles of corona belittlers worldwide. “The refusal of individual Austrian parliamentarians to have mouth and nose protection in parliament is an insult to all citizens who have to keep to themselves outside parliament.”
This was an unnecessary provocation, especially against the parliamentary staff. “Many of them are justifiably afraid of being infected by mandates who do not want to wear a mask. The refusal to wear a mask on the basis of the free mandate is cynical,” Buchmann said.
The FPÖ continues to show little willingness to wear masks. Party leader Norbert Hofer recently spoke of a “shameful diversionary maneuver” and an opposition to an agreement in the presidency. And he pointed out that mandates from other political groups do not always wear masks. “Incomprehension” came from club boss Herbert Kickl: Plexiglas walls were bought for “extremely expensive money”, and several times there was also a relaxed seating. And the parliamentary directorate has so far not provided any evidence for the effectiveness of masks.
The Presidential Conference talks not only about the masks, but also about corona measures in general. After all, the MPs live in Vienna, which is now closed again due to the high number of cases. But unlike about a year ago, work is “completely normal” in the House: The 183 MPs sit together in the large reduction chamber, and committees meet in the sometimes small committee rooms.
Among the suggestions made for the Presidial is the suggestion to switch back to relaxed seating or, if possible, video conferencing. The question of representation should also come up – after Second President Doris Bures (SPÖ) recently fell ill with Corona, Sobotka was in house quarantine and only Third President Hofer was present in person. Another topic of discussion may be the question of an early vaccination of Members of Parliament – Parliament, because it must be constantly ready for action, is part of the critical infrastructure.
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