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Austria's Kurz wants deeper ties with Germany

December 18, 2017

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced his intention to deepen ties with Germany and the EU. Vienna's new government has encountered mixed responses in Germany for including the far-right Freedom Party.

 Angela Merkel, Sebastian Kurz
Image: imago/E. Wukits

Austria's new right-of-center coalition government wants to further deepen relations with Germany, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday before he assumed office.

"Many personal, economic, political and cultural ties bind us to Germany," the 31-year-old told Germany's Bild newspaper. 

Kurz was sworn in as chancellor on Monday, after his center-right People's Party (ÖVP) reached a coalition agreement during the weekend with the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ).

At least 6,000 demonstrators gathered in the Austrian capital to demonstrate against the FPÖ's inclusion in the government.

The shift to the right in Austria has led to uncertainty at the EU-level over how the new government will engage with Brussels. However, Kurz has sought to dispel any concerns his tough immigration stance would strain ties with Germany and Brussels.

Demonstrators protested against the new government, saying the FPÖ should be excluded from power in Austria
Demonstrators protested against the new government, saying the FPÖ should be excluded from power in AustriaImage: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/R. Zak

'One more ally in Europe'

As foreign minister, Kurz frequently criticized Berlin over immigration policy, and FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache once called German Chancellor Angela Merkel "the most dangerous woman in Europe."

"I am looking forward to further cooperation with the German government, and especially with Chancellor Angela Merkel – above all in further deepening our excellent bilateral relationship and also within the European Union," Kurz said.

While Vienna's incoming government encountered mixed responses in Germany, Merkel's conservative Bavarian allies, the CSU, have been positive.

"With Sebastian Kurz, Bavaria and Germany have one more ally in Europe," Alexander Dobrindt, the head of the CSU's parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, told Die Welt newspaper.

Degree of alarm

The CSU has pushed hard for Merkel's CDU to implement a stricter immigration policy, including a cap on asylum seekers and restrictions on family reunification.

But the Social Democrats (SPD) have reacted with a degree of alarm to a shift to the right in Austria, where their Social Democrat counterparts are now out of government.

Achim Post, the vice-chairman of the SPD's parliamentary group, told Die Welt that Kurz, Strache and Hungary's Victor Orban have similar views. This would especially impact asylum policy, he said.

ls,cw/ng (AFP, dpa)