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Austrian chancellor to remain in government coalition despite his minister’s controversial EU vote

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BERLIN (AP) — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said his conservative Austrian People’s Party would remain in the current government coalition with its Green party junior partner — even though the Green’s environment minister voted on Monday for the so-called Nature Restoration plan, which Nehammer has opposed.

Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler’s vote in a European Union ballot earlier on Monday came after months of domestic political debate and infuriated the senior partner in the coalition government ahead of a national election set for Sept. 29.

Before Nehammer’s statement, speculation had been growing in Austria about whether he would break up the coalition government.

“The emotion would be there” for an end to the coalition, but Nehammer told journalists it was his “responsibility, as federal chancellor, to ensure an orderly path” until the parliamentary elections, Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported.

“I won’t do it,” he added.

After her vote, Gewesseler wrote on X that “my conscience tells me unmistakably (that) when the healthy and happy life of future generations is at stake, courageous decisions are needed.”

Earlier, the chancellery said Nehammer informed the Belgian EU presidency that a vote in favor of the plan by Gewessler would be unlawful, the Austria Press Agency reported. Nehammer’s office later said Austria plans to file a suit at the European Court of Justice to nullify the vote.

His party also announced that it would press criminal charges against Gewessler for alleged abuse of office.

The Nature Restoration plan is part of the EU’s European Green Deal that seeks to establish the world’s most ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and make the bloc the global point of reference on all climate issues.

In the buildup to the EU elections that saw a shift to the right earlier this month, European farmers complained about the many environmental laws governing the way they work, arguing that the rules were harming their livelihoods and strangling them with red tape.

Nehammer himself is under pressure in Austria after a narrow win by the far-right Freedom Party over the chancellor’s conservative Austrian People’s Party in the European Parliament election last week that saw hard-right parties achieving major gains across the 27-nation bloc.

Following his party’s defeat in the European election, Nehammer acknowledged there is “great dissatisfaction,” APA reported. He also vowed his party would convince voters of how seriously it took their concerns over the coming months confronting issues of migration and overregulation.

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