Austria’s chancellor has said that there is no problem with food poverty in the country, stating that a €3.50 (£3) McDonald’s meal is proof that no one needs to go without a hot meal.
Karl Nehammer was seen in a leaked video dismissing reports of child hunger in the wealthy Alpine republic.
“What does it mean there are kids without hot meals in Austria? Do you know what the cheapest meal in Austria is?” he asked supporters gathered at a private wine-and-cheese event near Salzburg last week.
“It’s not healthy, but it’s cheap: a hamburger at McDonald’s [is] €1.40, if I buy fries with it, €3.50. Now someone is seriously claiming that we live in a country where parents can’t afford this meal for their child,” Mr Nehammer added.
He also targeted women who don’t have children and work part-time, saying “hard-working people [are] pulling the lazy ones along”.
“If I don’t have enough money, I work more,” he said.
Austrian media were quick to seize on the remarks, dubbing the controversy “Burgergate” and describing it as a “Marie Antoinette moment”, in reference to the Vienna-born princess who allegedly declared that starving French peasants in the 18th century should simply “eat cake”.
Critics said that the chancellor was out of touch with the economic realities faced by many Austrians.
“In Austria, no one has to starve or freeze to death in winter. Because we drew a jackpot in the birthplace lottery,” said Michael Landau, the president of the welfare charity Caritas Europe.
“But anyone who says that no one in Austria goes hungry or freezes has no idea about the reality of the people,” he added.
‘Nehammer ties people’s shoes together’
Andreas Babler, the Left-wing leader of the Social Democratic Party, accused the chancellor of “despising people for something he himself is responsible for”.
“Nehammer ties people’s shoes together and when they fall he shouts ‘get up and keep running,’” Mr Babler said.
Mr Nehammer’s governing Austrian People’s Party (OVP) is plummeting in the polls amid stubbornly high inflation and a cost of living crisis worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The OVP currently trails both the far-Right Freedom Party and Mr Babler’s Social Democrats.
Mr Nehammer has not issued an apology for his remarks but last week defended his government’s assistance to what he called low-income families.
“I stand by the fact that hard work has to be worth it and that parents have a responsibility to take care of their children,” he said.
Natascha Strobl, a political scientist, said that “every bit” of Austrian society was outraged by Mr Nehammer’s conduct.
“It’s been a long time since Austria has been collectively outraged by something. Some are offended by what he said about poor children, others by the setting in a very fancy winery. But mostly, he just wasn’t speaking like a Chancellor,” she said.
After his predecessor Sebastian Kurz was forced to resign amid a corruption probe, Mr Nehammer has tried to present himself as a safe pair of hands, but this isn’t the first time that he has been accused of unstatesmanlike language.
In July last year he said that without passing inflation reduction bills Austrians “would be left with only two options: alcohol or psychotropic drugs”.
The post Austrian chancellor says cheap McDonald’s meals show food poverty doesn’t affect his nation appeared first on The Telegraph.