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
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
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
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
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