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Austria's Chancellor Christian Kern arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir(reuters_tickers)
WELS, Austria (Reuters) - Austrian centre-left Chancellor Christian Kern on Wednesday launched an apparent bid to win back voters from the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) by presenting a 10-year plan focussed on jobs and the economy.
Faced with a resurgent FPO that is running first in opinion polls and is buoyed by fears about Europe's migration crisis and rising unemployment, Kern called for the European Union to allow preference for Austrian citizens in sectors with high joblessness.
"That means - only if there is no suitable unemployed person in the country can (a job) be given to new arrivals without restriction," the text of his plan said. It singled out immigration from eastern European member states as a source of pressure on the small country's job market.
Speaking at an event in Wels, the biggest town in Austria to be run by an FPO mayor and which had long been a stronghold of his Social Democrats, Kern outlined a plan that runs well beyond the expiry of his coalition government's term in 2018.
There has been persistent speculation that the coalition between Kern's Social Democrats and the conservative People's Party will collapse. That would leave the FPO well placed to win the snap election that would follow, since it is running a clear first in polls on more than 30 percent.
Kern's plan also expanded on comments he made last year in which he denounced multinational firms that base themselves in an EU country with a low tax base so they can avoid or reduce their tax bill in other EU states they operate in.
His plan called for a "punitive" tax of more than 25 percent to be imposed on companies that book profits from sales in Austria in other European countries to avoid paying Austrian tax. He also said online companies like Google should have to pay the same tax on advertising revenue as newspapers.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Mark Heinrich)