Meet Austria’s new chancellor

EPA-EFE/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz (R), the leader and top candidate of the Austrian Peoples Party (OeVP)(R) and Sophie Karmasin (L), Austrian Federal Minister of Families and Youth (L) walk across the Ballhausplatz square together with the members of government on their way to the Austrian President for their formal resignation after the Austrian Federal elections in Vienna, Austria, 17 October 2017.

Meet Austria’s new chancellor


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On the verge of becoming Austria’s new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz will become Europe’s youngest leader and one of the toughest on immigration.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the 31-year-old said Europe’s refugee crisis brought people to Austria “who sometimes brought ideas that have no place in our country”. He said there are “people who reject our way of living, who are against equality between men and women.”

His demands include the effective defence of the EU’s external borders, a stop to illegal immigration and curbs on foreigners’ access to welfare payments.

Kurz’s People’s party won 31.5% of the vote on October 15. His party ran a platform addressing Austrians’ anxieties head-on. Now he must build a coalition government to secure the chancellorship.

Promising to talk to all parties, this makes possible an alliance with the centre-left Social Democrats, runners-up, or a minority government.

According to the Financial Times, most observers in Vienna reckon the most likely outcome is a pact with the far-right Freedom party, which took 26% of the vote as part of a massive political shift rightward.

The Freedom party is notorious beyond Austria for its historical links with pan-German nationalists, anti-Semitic voices and airbrushing of the country’s Nazi past.

Meanwhile, with Austria scheduled to take the EU’s revolving presidency in the second half of 2018, Kurz, if he becomes chancellor, will soon have a bigger role on the European stage.

“I’m for a Europe without internal borders, but that will only be possible with functioning external borders — something for which I will battle massively,” he said.

As for Brexit, Kurz said he is “very unhappy” about the British decision to depart though “happy” with how negotiations have been led by the EU’s Michel Barnier.

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