Conservative and nationalist parties in Austria have reached a deal on creating a new coalition government that will make 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz the new chancellor and Europe’s youngest leader.
Mr Kurz’s conservative Austrian People’s Party finished first in the country’s October 15 election and then embarked on coalition talks with the right-wing Freedom Party.
Mr Kurz and Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache announced yesterday that they had wrapped up an agreement on a new coalition, which will shift Austria to the right. Mr Kurz is foreign minister in the outgoing government under Chancellor Christian Kern, a centre-left Social Democrat. His party has been the junior partner in that government.
The two leaders gave few details of their plans as they announced their agreement in Vienna, saying they would talk at greater length after presenting their proposals to President Alexander Van der Bellen today.
Mr Kurz said the new government would work to reduce Austrians’ tax burden, strengthen the economy and “above all, we want to ensure more security in our country, including by fighting illegal immigration”.
Before the election, both parties campaigned on the need for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam. Neither leader addressed the new government’s approach to European policy during their brief appearance.
Austria will hold the 28-nation European Union’s rotating presidency in the second half of next year. Mr Kurz has stressed the importance of a pro-European direction while the Freedom Party traditionally has been strongly Eurosceptic.
Mr Kurz said that Austrians had voted “for change in our country, and we want to ensure this change in the next five years”. He said it was also important to ensure “a new political style in dealing with each other in Austria” after persistent bickering in the old government.