Austria’s new government has pledged support for the EU, but aims to give a hard time to refugees and to be friendlier to Russia.
The policy lines emerged on Sunday (17 December) in a coalition deal between the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO).
The pact is to see the OVP’s 31-year old Sebastian Kurz become Austria’s youngest-ever leader, with the FPO’s Heinz-Christian Strache as deputy.
But the fact Strache took two minor dossiers (sports and civil service), allowing him to focus on his deputy job, as well as his dominant performance in press briefings, has led Austrian press to dub him “co-chancellor”.
The fact the FPO took control of the country’s security apparatus (the army, police, and intelligence services) by securing the interior, defence, and foreign ministries in the new government also underlined its power.
Kurz told press on Sunday he was “looking forward to further cooperation with the German federal government, in particular with German chancellor Angela Merkel, [and] above all, to further deepen our excellent bilateral relations within the European Union”.
His remarks seemed designed to end his confrontation with Merkel over her more welcoming policy on asylum seekers.
The FPO’s choice of foreign minister, Karin Kneissl, a non-party member and a polyglot academic who specialised in the Middle East, also looked like an attempt to soften the government’s image.
But the 180-page coalition pact took a hard line on migrants.
It said authorities would confiscate any cash brought in by asylum seeker and that officially-recognised refugees should get just €365 a month in welfare.
It said Austria would cut the minimum wage to discourage people from coming there to work.
It also said the EU should scrap Turkey’s accession talks.
And it went on to say Austria wanted to “shape a policy of detente between the West and Russia”, describing EU sanctions on Russia as a source of unwelcome “tensions”, in a reflection of the FPO’s partnership agreement with the ruling United Russia party in Moscow.
The coalition deal comes 64 days after elections in Austria, in which the OVP won 32 percent of votes and the FPO came third with 26 percent.
The last time a far-right party joined the government in Vienna, 17 years ago, EU states reacted with a diplomatic freeze.
Full article: Far right enters government in Austria (euobserver)