A spokesperson for OMV told POLITICO a “policy framework would first have to be created” to phase out Russian gas, but hinted it could support legal changes, adding: “If necessary, OMV can supply its customers in Austria with 100 percent of non-Russian gas.”
Gazprom didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by POLITICO.
But the government’s plans face an uphill battle politically too, with its legal proposals requiring a two-thirds majority in parliament — a feat made even harder as Vienna gears into campaign mode ahead of its election later this year, according to Austrian political scientist Thomas Hofer.
Austria’s Greens, who run the energy ministry, “want to put pressure on their coalition partner” — the center-right People’s Party (ÖVP) — he said, “but they know that it will be probably very difficult … given it’s a campaign year.”
With the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) currently ahead in the polls and the Social Democrats and ÖVP vying for second place, he said, both parties are particularly sensitive to any measure that could hike energy prices and “turn back on them.”
The FPÖ hit out at the proposal on Monday. “In her green-ideological drive, Minister Leonore Gewessler has apparently set herself the goal of causing energy prices to explode even further,” said the party’s energy spokesperson Axel Kassegger, which is “driving our economic and industrial location completely into the wall.”
For the Greens, whose support has dipped below 10 percent, the plans also offer “inoculation” against criticism the party is doing little to reduce Austria’s reliance on Russia, according to Hofer.
“I’m sure [Gewessler] wants to achieve something there,” he said, “but she knows that the chances to enact that … in this legislative period are pretty slim.”