VIENNA: Austria’s government has said it fully supports a €300 billion ($374 billion) European Commission investment package, designed to pull Europe out of its economic slump over the next five years.
At the heart of EC President Jean-Claude Juncker’s agenda is a €21bn European Fund for Strategic Investment aimed at stimulating growth and jobs. He will be revealing more details on Wednesday.
Chancellor Werner Faymann said on Tuesday that economic forecasts of European countries show “relatively small increases” in economic growth, too small to support employment, education, research, and development, and as such growth must be strengthened by sustained investment, both domestically and on an EU-level.
Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said that Austria has submitted €28 billion worth of project proposals, and while he did not expect to receive the full sum, he hoped for a substantial part of it.
The list of investments and infrastructure projects will take months to sift through. The scheme has been heavily criticised as it relies on subprime forms of financial engineering, and will leave EU taxpayers bearing the heaviest risk.
If the scheme goes ahead the money will be used to build roads, renew railways, refine energy grids or upgrade high-speed internet. It requires the consent of EU leaders and legislation next year.
Britain is opposed to such a full-scale spending spree, but Germany has given it a warm welcome.
Austria has emerged remarkably well from the economic downturn, having registered economic growth since 2009. Only Germany boasts lower unemployment, and only Luxembourg has higher productivity per head of population.
However, growth predictions have been cut and the cost of winding down Hypo Alpe Adria, a failed bank, will push Austria’s public debt to around 87 percent of GDP.
Business leaders have also called for a reform to the tax system, with steep social security and pension costs hampering Austria’s competitiveness – but it remains unclear how such a cut in income tax will be financed.__The Local
SRINIGAR: The Indian army says a group of heavily armed suspected militants have killed at least one soldier and wounded three others in the latest fighting in the Indian portion of Kashmir, as the leaders of India and Pakistan attended a regional summit aimed at boosting trade between almost a quarter of the world’s people.
Fighting between the militants and the army was continuing, a senior Indian army officer said.
Four to five militants attacked the army base near the town of Arnia, about four km (2.5 miles) from the border with Pakistan, the officer, who did not wish to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said.
The militants had divided into two teams, with one group heading inside an army bunker and the other holed up inside a house in a village, the officer said.
India and Pakistan fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are attending the annual South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Nepal and their bickering has meant the leaders have refused to meet each other.
Separatists have been fighting Indian forces in India’s part of Kashmir since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the rebels in the part of Kashmir it controls and sending them to the Indian side, a claim denied by Islamabad.
India and Pakistan exchanged their heaviest gunfire in a decade last month, killing more than 20 people.__Dawn.com
MADRID: Spain’s Health Minister Ana Mato has resigned after a judge accused her of benefiting from illegal payments.
Her ex-husband, Jesus Sepulveda, was found to be linked to a huge corruption case involving the ruling People’s Party.
A court issued a formal ruling which signalled that Ms Mato had no knowledge of any possible crime.
The scheme caused a scandal for PM Mariano Rajoy, who apologised after party members were arrested by police.
Ms Mato has not been named as an official suspect in the case, but will have to sit in during court hearings, judicial sources have told Spanish press.
In a statement, Ms Mato said she had not herself been linked with any crime but that she was standing down for the good of the government.
Judges have been investigating the so-called Gurtel network, a huge scheme involving illegal party donations or kickbacks from businesses seeking contracts.
It is the largest pre-trial investigation in the history of Spain’s criminal court, and involves many Popular Party officials and public figures.__BBC
QUETTA: Four polio vaccination workers have been shot dead and three injured in the south-west Pakistani city of Quetta.
Police said the three female health workers and their male driver were attacked by two gunmen on a motorbike. Anti-polio efforts in the province have been suspended, the authorities say.
The shootings are the latest in a series targeting Pakistani polio teams. No group has claimed responsibility.
Militants say polio teams are spies or that the vaccine causes infertility.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where the disease is still endemic, the others being Nigeria and Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s National Co-ordinator for Polio Eradication, Ayesha Raza Farooq, told the BBC it was a “cowardly attack”. She said the shootings happened as the workers walked a short distance to a rendezvous with their security detail.
“There was going to be security with this team before they went in and started their work. However, no one could have thought that this team would be intercepted,” she said.
More than 60 Pakistani polio workers, or their guards and drivers, have been killed since 2012 – with most attacks blamed on Islamic extremists, the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan reports from Islamabad.
Police officer Imran Qureshi told the BBC that two of the workers, both women, died on the spot, while two others died later of injuries sustained in the attack.
Pakistan has so far reported 260 new cases of polio this year, its highest number since 2000.__BBC
KARACHI: Police on Wednesday recovered 33 minor girl students of a Karachi seminary who had been handed over to a family by a teacher and a supervisor of the madrassah over non-payment of a debt.
Acting on a complaint filed by the residents, police raided a house in Liaquatabad C-1 area and found 26 young girls inside.
Later, seven more young girls were recovered from the same area, raising the tally to 33.
According to ASI Tanveer, the girls who hail from Bajaur tribal region could not speak or understand Urdu. The seminary handed the girls over to the family when the family was unable to pay off a loan it had taken from the madrassah. As repayment of the loan, the seminary had asked the family to take charge of the young girls’ welfare.
A woman from the family added that a female teacher from the seminary along with a supervisor came to their house and handed over the girls for safekeeping on the pretext that it would add pressure to repay the loan.
Police officials said that the seminary owner in her statement had said that she regularly brought in children from Bajaur to educate them in her madrassah in Karachi’s Jamshed Quarters area.
She further said that after receiving education the girls returned to Bajaur where they imparted training to others. The owner added that she also arranged marriages of poor girls in the tribal region.
Police sources tried to downplay the incident and said that the affair appeared to be a petty dispute over a financial transaction since the seminary owners’ son was on good terms with the husband of the debtor.___Dawn.com