Austria swears in Europe’s youngest leader amid protests against far right
search

Austria swears in Europe’s youngest leader amid protests against far right

Christian Kurz takes up chancellor post after reaching coalition deal with nationalist Freedom Party, amid expectations government will move to right

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen (R) and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz sign the letter of appointment during the inauguration ceremony of the new Austrian government at the Hofburg in Vienna on December 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Vladimir Simicek)
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen (R) and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz sign the letter of appointment during the inauguration ceremony of the new Austrian government at the Hofburg in Vienna on December 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Vladimir Simicek)

BERLIN — Sebastian Kurz was sworn in Monday as Austria’s new chancellor, making him Europe’s youngest leader at age 31, after his Austrian People’s Party formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party that is expected to move the country’s politics to the right.

About 6,000 people protested outside Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen’s office with signs like “we don’t want any Nazi pigs” and “Nazis out” as Kurz and his new Cabinet were sworn in, the dpa news agency reported.

The two parties have pledged to tighten the country’s asylum and immigration regulations while maintaining a firm commitment to the European Union.

Kurz has moved his traditionally centrist party to the right, particularly on the issues of migration and Muslims, but has avoided the inflammatory rhetoric of the Freedom Party, which itself has publicly disassociated itself from decades of covert anti-Semitism, but continues to attract a neo-Nazi fringe.

A demonstrator holds a poster reading ‘Nazis out of the parliament’ during a demonstration ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of the new Austrian government led by a conservative and a far-right party in Vienna, on December 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Political opponents have expressed particular concern that the Freedom Party has control of the important Interior, Defense and Foreign Ministries. Its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, is now vice chancellor.

Kurz served as foreign minister in the outgoing government led by Chancellor Christian Kern, a Social Democrat. He has stressed the importance of a pro-European direction and is expected to continue to take the lead on European issues even though the Freedom Party, which has traditionally been strongly euroskeptic, will have the Foreign Ministry.

Both Kurz’s conservatives and the Freedom Party campaigned on the need for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.

Newly sworn-in Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, left, and new Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache talk during the swearing-in ceremony of the new Austrian government in Vienna on December 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

A coalition agreement finalized Friday night pledged to bolster the country’s police forces with another 2,100 officers, as well as immigration policies that “can be sustained by the population.” The agreement also says asylum should only be offered to people “for the duration of their persecution, who really need Austria’s help.”

Other points include ending illegal migration, cutting government bureaucracy, reducing taxes and creating a new national climate and energy strategy.

In the new Cabinet, the Freedom Party has five ministers in addition to Strache and a deputy minister.

Along with Kurz as chancellor, the People’s Party has seven ministers and one deputy, with responsibilities including the Finance, Economy and Justice Ministries.

read more:
comments