Kurzism Doesn’t Travel Well

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, French Republican party leader Laurent Wauquiez and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Salzburg, September 19, 2018 (EPP)

The Financial Times wonders if Austria’s Sebastian Kurz is the savior of Europe’s center-right or an enabler of the far right.

His supporters, including the liberal-minded former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, see the Austrian as the antidote to Orbanism:

He talks about an open world, internationalism and is pro-European. But he is pragmatic about solving issues. And one of the big issues is immigration.

Critics argue that by taking a hard line on immigration, Kurz is legitimizing the far right. “You don’t fight fire with kerosene,” according to former chancellor and former Social Democratic Party leader Christian Kern. Read more

Steve King Is Awful, But Austria’s Freedom Party Is Not Neo-Nazi

Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

For the first time in sixteen years, Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa seems vulnerable. The polling gurus at FiveThirtyEight still give him a five-in-six chance of winning reelection, but one recent survey had King tied with his Democratic challenger.

I don’t think it’s unfair to call King a white supremacist. He speaks about the superiority of Western civilization, argues that certain races work harder than others and worries that white women are not having enough babies to preserve the dominant culture of the United States.

Many journalists have become comfortable calling out such bigotry in the age of Trump, but sometimes they go too far. There are stories referring to King meeting with members of a “neo-Nazi party” in Austria. That party is the ruling Freedom Party, and calling it neo-Nazi is inaccurate. Read more

South Tyroleans Bide Their Time

View of Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, Italy, July 30, 2007
View of Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, Italy, July 30, 2007 (Flickr/gigi62)

An Austrian proposal to extend dual citizenship to German-speaking inhabitants of South Tyrol has heightened already tense relations with Italy over the region.

However, secession — in the wake of failed independence bids in Catalonia and Scotland — remains unlikely. Read more

Other Conservatives Should Be Wary of Imitating Kurz

Austrian People's Party leader Sebastian Kurz meets with other conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22
Austrian People’s Party leader Sebastian Kurz meets with other conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22 (EPP)

Sebastian Kurz’ success may not be a template for other conservative party leaders.

The young Christian democrat defeated the far right in Austria this weekend by moving his People’s Party to the right on identity issues and immigration.

But Austria is more right-wing than most countries in Europe and its Freedom Party still achieved an almost historic result on Sunday. Read more

Russian Gas Pipeline Triggers Transatlantic Spat

German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015
German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

An Americans sanctions bill that explicitly mentions the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has set off alarm bells in Berlin and Vienna.

In a panicky joint statement, the foreign ministers of Germany and Austria urge the United States not to impose “illegal extraterritorial sanctions” on the European companies that are building a pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

Sigmar Gabriel, a social democrat, and Sebastian Kurz, a conservative, warn that such penalties could affect transatlantic relations in a “new and very negative way” and “diminish the effectiveness of our stance on the conflict in Ukraine.”

European countries and the United States are currently united in condemning Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support for an insurgency in southeastern Ukraine. Both sides have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read more

NATO Throws Austria Under the Bus to Appease Turks

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, April 21, 2016
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, April 21, 2016 (NATO)

On the eve of a leaders summit in Brussels, NATO has found a way to salvage its partnership program with 41 nations in Europe and the Middle East which Turkey had threatened to suspend.

A last-minute compromise sees Austria withdrawing from NATO peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and Turkey holding back from severing ties with other non-allied partner states.

The Turks were outraged when Austria called on the EU to end accession talks in the wake of last year’s failed military coup against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His government has since purged tens of thousands of soldiers and civil servants on the pretext of disloyalty. Erdoğan has given himself broad powers and imprisoned opposition leaders. Read more

Other Conservatives Should Be Wary of Imitating Kurz and May

Sebastian Kurz is seen leaving an Austrian People's Party meeting in Vienna, May 14
Sebastian Kurz is seen leaving an Austrian People’s Party meeting in Vienna, May 14 (ÖVP/Jakob Glaser)

Center-right parties in Western Europe are responding to competition from the nativist right in radically different ways.

Whereas Dutch prime minister and liberal party leader Mark Rutte argued against the “pessimism” of the nationalist Freedom Party in the March election and won, conservative leaders in Austria and the United Kingdom have chosen to appease reactionary voters. Read more