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Austria's government to cut child benefits abroad to save 100 million euros

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Staff Writer | January 10, 2018
Austria's ruling coalition of conservatives and the far right plans to cut benefit payments for children living abroad, it said.
Sebastian Kurz
Europe   A far-right party in government
They were adding that they believe the move does not break European Union rules banning discrimination.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's cabinet was sworn in on December 18, two months after his conservative People's Party won the parliamentary election.

It struck a coalition deal with the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO), making Austria the only western European country with a far-right party in government.

The FPO controls the interior, foreign, defense and social affairs ministries, among others.

At the start of a two-day cabinet meeting in a castle near Slovenia, Kurz said the government would cut benefits for Austrian residents' children who live in a country where the cost of living is lower.

"It is an unfairness built into the system that, for two children who do not even live in Austria but in Romania, roughly 300 euros a month are transferred to Romania and that is almost the average income there," Kurz told reporters standing alongside Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

Payments vary depending on children's age and number but start around 114 euros ($138) a month for an only child.

"We will reach a decision in cabinet here so that child benefit payments are not made abroad to the same extent as before," Kurz said, adding that adjusting payments to the local cost of living would save "more than 100 million euros (a year)".

That pales in comparison with the 2.5 billion euros in savings the government aims to make this year. Kurz said the move was being made so quickly because it was one of the easiest to prepare.