On 6th of September 2021, the former chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz made a statement during an interview with the Austrian TV-Channel ORF where he outlined that Austria is spending over one billion euros on development cooperation and humanitarian aid. He also said that since he is in charge the money Austria spends in this section has increased tenfold. If you look at the big picture, Austria provides way less help than other countries. Yet, his statement is true.
Sebastian Kurz is an Austrian politician that appeared on the political landscape for the first time once he became the minister of foreign affairs back in 2013. Since then, his popularity and power has risen continually. He reached the peak of his political career in 2017 when he became the chancellor of Austria. However, on the 9th of October 2021 he resigned as the chancellor and is now the chairman of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP).
When Kurz attended the last “Summer Talks’ at the TV-channel ORF, the Afghanistan crisis had taken place just a few weeks before, and it became one of the main topics in the interview. When he was asked if Austria is providing enough help for humanitarian aid, Kurz claimed that Austria is providing a disproportionately large contribution to humanitarian aid, and that since he is in charge it has increased tenfold.
But was he right?
The claim itself can be divided into two parts. First, is Austria really spending over one billion euros on development cooperation and humanitarian aid? The Austrian ministry for European and international affairs provided a forecast that in 2020 the amount of money Austria would spend on Official Development Assistance (ODA) will be at 1,113 billion euros. The ODA includes all Austrian official development aid from the federal, states and local governments. These numbers are also published by the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. So, about the first part of his claim, Kurz was indeed right.
However, he not only talked about the amount of money itself, but he also stated that since he was in office the value has increased tenfold. Again, he was right with his claim, the value did increase tenfold since he became minister in 2013, but the numbers he stated were only about the budget of the Foreign Disaster Fund which is only a small part of the whole ODA number. So, what is the Foreign Disaster Fund? It is mainly used for the immediate management of a crisis as well as for rehabilitation measures and reconstruction. They are mostly awarded to international organizations or Austrian non-governmental organizations by the Austrian Development Agency or the Foreign Ministry itself. So, speaking about the Foreign Disaster Fund only, the numbers are right. They were published by the official site of the Austrian development agency.
Back in 2013, the budget was at 4,85 million and was used mostly for providing help in Syria, in 2021 the budget stands at 52,5 million euros so it did increase tenfold but as we explained earlier it is only a small part of the whole ODA budget. There was a high increase in the budget of the Foreign Disaster Fund, but it was originally unplanned and resulted from a conflict between the two governing parties over the refugee camps on Moria: Because the ÖVP was against the admission of refugees, the Greens wrested the increase from the coalition partner. Green leader Werner Kogler had also pointed out this increase in his “Summer Talk” and described it as an achievement of the green government work.
Although what Kurz said was right, it is interesting to look at the big picture. Austria is indeed giving more than a billion on humanitarian aid and development cooperation, but the budget in that sector has not increased tenfold. That applies only on the budget of the Foreign Disaster Fund. Therefor, we rate Sebastian Kurz’s claim as mostly true.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Marta Vidal and Nicolas Lendl
Cross-national fact check by Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain and University of Applied Sciences for Management and Communication, Vienna, Austria during an Erasmus exchange at AP University College Antwerp, Belgium
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