Vaccine trouble for Sebastian Kurz: “Biggest scandal in the history of Austria”


Upper limit for vaccination doses ?: Vaccine trouble for a short time: “The biggest scandal in the history of Austria”

Why did Austria order less vaccine than other countries? Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz holds the EU responsible. But internal documents should show: The Ministry of Finance in Vienna gave itself an upper limit. The opposition is furious.

The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) initiated the debate: Why did Austria order less vaccine against the coronavirus than would have been possible? While Kurz continues to complain about the inequality in vaccine distribution at the EU summit, a heated dispute is developing in Austrian politics: Ministry of Finance versus Ministry of Health. So opposition to ÖVP.

Ministry of Finance changed budget from “more than” to “up to 200 million euros”

According to reports in the “Kronen Zeitung” and “Standards”, files from the Ministry of Health last summer indicate that the Ministry of Finance is said to have introduced a cost cap for vaccine procurement. As a formulation for a ministerial council lecture, the health department suggested calculating “more than 200 million euros” for corona vaccinations. In an adjacent correction column, the Ministry of Finance corrected the passage in red to “up to 200 million euros”.

The Ministry under Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) explains that the funding information from the Ministry of Health was too vague. The health department had not made any specific demands for more money, “it was always clear that there was more money when you needed more, but unfortunately ‘more than’ is not a correct budget estimate,” said a spokesman for the finance department. If more needs are announced, more would be budgeted, writes the Ministry of Finance in a statement. “It would have been possible to readjust here at any time, we will flag everything that says Covid anyway.”

The Ministry of Health has only called up 53 million euros so far, according to the Ministry of Finance. At the beginning of February, however, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) submitted an application to increase the scope for vaccinations to 388.3 million euros.

SPÖ, FPÖ and NEOS are calling for Finance Minister Blümel to resign

SPÖ Deputy Chief Jörg Leichtfried has expressed himself angry several times in the last few days and also urged Chancellor Kurz in the National Council that the ÖVP was shifting responsibility to the Ministry of Health. “We have e-mails where the Ministry of Health insists that the limit be higher, and the ÖVP refused! The officials ordered exactly what they were allowed to order – and not a cent more,” throws Leichtfried to the ÖVP-led Ministry of Finance before.

Leichtfried says that seven million fewer vaccine doses were ordered than would have been possible. “This was not just a lie, people were playing with people’s health.” Finance Minister Blümel had repeatedly asserted that there was no spending cap on the purchase of vaccinations, but “that is untrue.” The failure of the finance ministry was “one of the greatest scandals in Austrian history. “He found Blümel to be” clearly ready to resign. “The SPÖ, FPÖ and NEOS are all calling for Blümel’s departure.

The officials are said to have not been able to order enough vaccine, which is why Austria had around seven million fewer vaccine doses available. The government tried to cover it up, Leichtfried said.

Ministry of Finance accuses opposition of spreading untruths

The Ministry of Finance did not allow these accusations to sit on itself and counters that the opposition is deliberately spreading untruths and contributing to the uncertainty of the population. In this context, the Ministry refers to the budget requirements that the Ministry of Health notified to the Ministry of Finance in August. 80 million euros are said to have been given for vaccines for 2020, and 120 million euros for 2021. The finance department rejects the fact that there was email traffic indicating that a higher budget might be needed.

FPÖ deputy Dagmar Belakowitsch even calls for a real committee of inquiry into the vaccination cause as soon as the currently running Ibiza-U-Committee is over. Harald Mayer, Vice President of the Austrian Medical Association, thinks it is “scandalous that coordination problems with the budget for vaccine procurement within the government have meant that we in Austria have fewer vaccine doses than we would have received”.

Before the mutual accusations and the publication of the mail traffic between the two ministries, internal debacles already caused displeasure in both departments. Clemens Auer, who was in charge of vaccine procurement, resigned from his position in mid-March after allegedly failing to inform Health Minister Anschober that it was possible to purchase additional vaccine doses. Auer alone decided that 31 million cans were enough for all of Austria. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Blümel’s calls for resignation have already been raised because of a completely different charge: Blümel is currently a suspect in the public prosecutor’s investigations into two gambling companies. It is about the allegation of potential party donations to the ÖVP, he denies the allegations.

Sebastian Kurz complains of unequal distribution, but achieves little at the EU summit

Before the EU summit on Thursday, press representatives also confronted Chancellor Kurz with the question of whether the Ministry of Finance had drawn in a cost cap for the order. The discussion is absurd, said Kurz. It is not the cost, but the delivery.

Before the EU summit on Thursday, Kurz had expressed the hope of up to 400,000 additional doses for Austria – twice as much as the country would be entitled to according to its proportion of the population in the EU. But the other heads of state and government hardly met him. After hours of dispute, it was only agreed to continue negotiating an early partial delivery of ten million vaccine doses. The imbalance in vaccine distribution is due to the fact that not all EU countries have bought the quantities they are entitled to based on their population. Austria could soon fall behind because it has not exhausted its quota of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is to be delivered from mid-April.

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Vaccine trouble Sebastian Kurz Biggest scandal history Austria


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