Austria’s Kurz condemns poem by coalition ally comparing migrants to rats
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Austria’s Kurz condemns poem by coalition ally comparing migrants to rats

Verse by local leader of far-right party ‘is disgusting, shows contempt for human beings and is deeply racist,’ says chancellor

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP/Francisco Seco)
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP/Francisco Seco)

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned Monday an anti-migrant poem published by a local branch of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior party in his government coalition.

The poem was written by the FPOe deputy mayor of the town of Braunau in Upper Austria and used the image of foreign rats integrating with Austrian ones to illustrate the dangers of “mixing” cultures and languages.

“The choice of words is disgusting, shows contempt for human beings and is deeply racist,” Kurz told the Austrian APA agency.

“The Freedom Party in Upper Austria must distance themselves from this immediately and unequivocally and issue a clarification,” he went on.

Supporters of the Austrian Freedom Party FPOe hold scarves and pictures of party leader Hans-Christian Strache and last year’s presidential candidate Norbert Hofer during the final campaign rally of the party in Vienna, Austria, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. Austria will hold national elections on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Kurz leads the center-right People’s Party (OeVP), which has been in coalition with the FPOe since elections in late 2017 in which both parties ran on anti-immigration platforms.

With EU parliament elections next month fast approaching, Kurz has come under increasing pressure to condemn the actions of some FPOe members.

Last month the FPOe came under scrutiny for its ties to the nationalist Identitarian group, which received a donation from suspected New Zealand mosque attacker Brenton Tarrant.

After that episode Kurz demanded that the party break all ties with the Identitarians, saying he would “not tolerate any indecisiveness when it comes to dealing with this right-wing extremist movement.”

The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said in a statement on Monday that the poem was “a reminder of a way of talking about certain groups which was widespread in Nazi propaganda.”

“The facts are clear. Where are the consequences, Mr Kurz?” she asked.

The FPOe deputy mayor who wrote the poem, Christian Schilcher, apologized in a statement for any offense caused.

He also told the regional Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten paper that the row was “much ado about nothing” ahead of the EU parliament elections.

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