Austria's Greens summon party meeting as coalition deal nears
Austria's Greens, who are in coalition talks with conservatives led by Sebastian Kurz, on Saturday summoned a meeting of their party's top decision-making body next week to sign off on a deal, indicating an agreement is close.The Greens' Federal Congress, comprising various groups within the party including its national, local and European lawmakers, must sign off on any coalition deal, and it requires a week's notice to meet.The meeting has been called for Jan. 4 and invitations were sent shortly before midnight, a Greens spokeswoman said.Although a deal has not yet been struck between the Greens and Kurz's People's Party (OVP), which won the last parliamentary election on Sept. 29, calling the meeting indicates the Greens believe an agreement will be reached before then.Kurz said on Friday as talks resumed after a short Christmas break that he aims to have a government sworn in by "early to mid-January". In contrast to the Greens, Kurz can sign off on the deal himself on behalf of his party.Given the difficulty in keeping the deal confidential once it is put to the more than 250 members of the Federal Congress, the details are likely to be announced before it meets. Media reports overnight said that presentation was likely to happen on Jan. 2 or Jan. 3.Few of those details have emerged so far, but Greens leader Werner Kogler has said he wants an investment package in environmental measures, and Kurz has said his priorities include continuing his hard line on illegal immigration and keeping a balanced budget.There have also been reports the deal includes large investments in expanding Austria's rail network.A deal would bring Kurz back to power as chancellor after his coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) collapsed in May over a video sting that felled FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache. A provisional government of civil servants is in place for the time being until a coalition is formed.
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