Sebastian Kurz

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Sebastian Kurz
Sebastian Kurz (2018-02-28) (cropped).jpg
Chancellor of Austria
In office
18 December 2017 – 28 May 2019
PresidentAlexander Van der Bellen
DeputyHeinz-Christian Strache
Hartwig Löger
Preceded byChristian Kern
Succeeded byBrigitte Bierlein
Chairman of the People's Party
Assumed office
15 May 2017
Preceded byReinhold Mitterlehner
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
16 December 2013 – 18 December 2017
ChancellorWerner Faymann
Christian Kern
Preceded byMichael Spindelegger
Succeeded byKarin Kneissl
Chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
In office
1 January 2017 – 18 December 2017
Secretary GeneralLamberto Zannier
Thomas Greminger
Preceded byFrank-Walter Steinmeier
Succeeded byKarin Kneissl
State Secretary of the Interior for Integration
In office
21 April 2011 – 16 December 2013
ChancellorWerner Faymann
MinisterJohanna Mikl-Leitner
Member of the National Council
In office
9 November 2017 – 22 January 2018
Nominated byHimself
AffiliationPeople's Party
In office
29 October 2013 – 16 December 2013
Nominated byMichael Spindelegger
AffiliationPeople's Party
Personal details
Born (1986-08-27) 27 August 1986 (age 32)
Meidling, Vienna, Austria
Political partyPeople's Party (2009–present)
Domestic partnerSusanne Thier
Parents
  • Elisabeth Kurz
  • Josef Kurz
ResidenceMeidling, Vienna
EducationGRG 12 Erlgasse (Matura)
Signature
Website
Military service
Allegiance Austria
Branch/service Bundesheer
Years of serviceOctober 2004 – June 2005
Stationed atMaria-Theresien-Kaserne

Sebastian Kurz (German pronunciation: [zeˈbastˌi̯a:n ˈkʊrt͡s]; born 27 August 1986) is an Austrian politician who served as the Chancellor of Austria from December 2017 to May 2019. In addition, Kurz has been the Chairman of the Austrian People's Party since May 2017.

Kurz was born and raised in Meidling, Vienna. He acquired his Maturazeugnis in 2004 at the GRG 12 Erlgasse and subsequently completed mandatory military service in 2005. Following the same year, Kurz attended the faculty of law (Juridicum) at the University of Vienna, but voluntarily left before graduating to focus on his political career. Kurz entered politics when he joined the Young People's Party (JVP) in 2003. Five years later he assumed his first political office there as chairman of the JVP for Vienna.

In 2010, Kurz successfully ran for the Viennese State Diet and thereby obtained his first governmental post. Following a reshuffle of the First Faymann cabinet in 2011, Kurz was nominated and appointed State Secretary of the Interior Ministry for Social integration. After the 2013 legislative election, Kurz became Foreign Minister of Austria in the Second Faymann cabinet and retained this position until 2017.

Following the resignation of Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner as Chairman of the People's Party (ÖVP) in May 2017, Kurz was nominated his successor. Mitterlehner's withdrawal from politics and the appointment of Kurz as ÖVP Chairman led to the end of the Kern cabinet and triggered a legislative snap election in 2017; in which Kurz participated as the top candidate of his party, gaining tremendous popularity with his core topics of immigration and social politics. Ultimately, he and his party achieved the first place in the election, receiving 31.5% of the vote.

As leader of the largest party after the election, Kurz was charged with the formation of a new cabinet by President Alexander Van der Bellen and subsequently formed a coalition with the Freedom Party (FPÖ). Kurz was sworn in as Chancellor on 18 December 2017 alongside his new cabinet. During his chancellorship, Kurz passed many changes and reforms but suffered multiple scandals. Following the Ibiza affair and the end of the ÖVP–FPÖ majority coalition, Kurz was dismissed by the National Council through a motion of no confidence passed by the SPÖ, FPÖ and JETZT in May 2019. President Van der Bellen replaced him with Brigitte Bierlein the next month.

As Chancellor, his style of governing was regarded as active and expeditious by supporters, but uncooperative and hasty by opponents. During most of his incumbency, Kurz was the youngest head of government in the world.

Personal life[edit]

Ancestry[edit]

Kurz was born in Vienna, the only child[1] of Roman Catholic parents Josef and Elisabeth Kurz. His father is an engineer and his mother is a grammar school teacher.[2] His maternal grandmother Magdalena Müller, born 1928, Temerin, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (today Vojvodina, Serbia), is a Danube Swabian who fled from the city and settled in Zogelsdorf (today in Austria) during World War II after the Yugoslav Partisans and the Red Army started to occupy the territory that was then part of the Kingdom of Hungary.[3][4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Kurz was brought up in the Meidling district, where he still lives. He took his Matura qualification in 2004,[6] completed compulsory military service[7] and then began studying law at the University of Vienna[8][9] in 2005, but later dropped out to focus on his political career.[10][11][12]

Private life[edit]

Kurz has been in a relationship with economics teacher Susanne Thier since the time they spent in school together.[13][14] Kurz resides in Meidling, the 12th district of Vienna.[15]

Political career[edit]

Youth branch[edit]

Kurz had been a member of the Young People's Party (JVP) since 2003 and was sponsored by Markus Figl.[16][17][18] From 2008 to 2012, he was chairman of the JVP in Vienna.[19] In 2009, he was elected federal chairman of the JVP with 99 percent of the delegates vote, In 2012 he was re-elected with 100 percent of the vote.[20] In 2017, he handed over the post of federal chair to lawyer Stefan Schnöll.[21] From 2009 to 2016, he also served as deputy chairperson of the People's Party in Vienna.[22] As chairman of the JVP in Vienna, he lead the youth campaign for the 2010 Viennese state election which had the slogan "Schwarz macht geil" (Black Makes Horny). In addition, he let a Geilomobil drive through Vienna.[23][24][25]

From 2010 to 2011, he was a member of the Vienna State and Municipality diet, where he focused on generational fairness and ensuring pensions, before being nominated as State Secretary for Integration of the Ministry of the Interior in June 2011 following a reshuffle of the first Faymann cabinet.[26][27] After the 2013 Austrian legislative election, in which he had won the most direct votes of any member in the election, he shortly served as a Member of the National Council.[28] On 16 December 2013 Kurz tenure as MP ended and he was sworn in as the youngest foreign minister in Austrian history by President Heinz Fischer (at the age of 27).[29]

State Secretary[edit]

Kurz saw the inclusion of religions and the dialogue with religious communities as important for integration. In the first months in his capacity as State Secretary, Kurz proposed several changes such as a second mandatory kindergarten year for children with language deficits.[30] In 2011, the joint campaign Zusammen:Österrecih (Together:Austria) was created by the Integration State Secretariat, along with the Austrian Integration Fund and the Ministry of Education. The campaign proposed familiarising immigrants with Austrian landscape and culture as well as to convey values such as religious freedom and democracy. So-called "Integration Ambassadors" were sent to schools to discuss migrants' identification with Austria.[31]

As Integration State Secretary, Kurz received an annual budget of 15 million euro as of 2011. This was increased to 100 million euros by 2017. The budget increase mainly occurred due to a large-scale expansion of German language courses together with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection.[32]

In 2013, Kurz participated in the creation of an amendment bill to the Citizenship Act.[33][34]

Foreign Minister[edit]

Kurz with Ivo Josipović at his first foreign visit as minister

Following the 2013 legislative election, Kurz took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Michael Spindelegger. In March 2014, his ministry's jurisdiction has been expanded and was additionally vested with matters of integration. Kurz denoted Western Balkans relations to be one of his top priorities, which is why his first foreign visit as minister was in Croatia.[35] Good relationships with Israel has been very important to him "for historical reasons" and for a positive cooperation with the Jewish community in the field of integration.[36]

During a visit in Belgrade on 26 February 2014, he reaffirmed Austria's continued support for the accession of Serbia into the European Union, also because Austrian economical and political interests. Together with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, he talked about the future of Bosnia and Austrian-Serbian relations in a historical context.[37]

In November 2014, he presented the "#stolzdrauf" campaign, which should have encouraged people to show what they are proud of in Austria on social networks.[38][39] The campaign was intended to strengthen social cohesion, but evolved into a polarized debate.[40] Especially Twitter has been affected of critical and sarcastic comments. Supporters of the campaign have been celebrities such as the former Miss Austria Amina Dagi or the musician Andreas Gabalier. Also involved in the campaign were President Heinz Fischer, the Austrian Airlines, the Jewish Community and the Islamic Religious Community. According to a report of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the left-wing especially opposed folksy Andreas Gabalier while the right did not want to recognize a headscarf wearer or a Tschuschn as real Austrians. The alt-right identitarian movement therefore disrupted the press conference on the presentation of the campaign. Also heavily criticized was the amount of money invested in the promotion of the campaign by the Foreign Ministry which amounted to €326,029 and €120,000 in five to six weeks, of which 55% flowed into newspaper advertisement at boulevard or free newspapers.[41][42]

On 25 February 2015, an amendment to the Islam law was passed in the National Council. The amendment adjusted the law of 1912 and banned foreign financing of Islamic associations and was especially criticised by the Muslim community.[43] It included the right of Muslims for pastoral care in the Armed Forces, detention centers, hospitals and nursing homes.[44] A German translation of the Qur'an which had been demanded by Kurz was not contained in the amendment.[45]

Kurz with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 4 April 2016

In June 2015, Kurz proposed to adjust the family subsidy for EU citizens working in Austria whose children live in the country of origin to the price level of their country. In addition, immigrants from other EU states should first have paid into the Austrian welfare system for a few years before they would be eligible to request financial aid in Austria. The SPÖ opposed the plans, but stated that the abuse of family subsidy needed to be better controlled. The FPÖ welcomed the proposals. The Greens accused Kurz and his party of "taking over the hate policy of the FPÖ".[46][47]

At the end of June 2015 Kurz presented his plans to close Austrian embassies in Malta, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia until autumn 2018. At the same time, new embassies should be opened in Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Qatar and Singapore. His plans also included another Consulate General in China. He wanted to achieve financial savings through the sale of no longer needed real estate and by merging representative agencies.[48]

Following the City of Vienna's rejection to commission Ednan Aslan with a research project on Islamic kindergartens in 2014, the Ministry of Integration commissioned Aslan himself. The preliminary study, published at the end of 2015, came to the conclusion that Salafist tendencies were emerging and that the spread of Islamist ideologies was observable. Following this alarming study, the City of Vienna and the Ministry of Integration agreed to conduct a comprehensive scientific study on that matter. In addition, the city of Vienna increasingly started to review these kindergartens. In June 2017, Kurz demanded to close Islamic kindergartens in general, as they had isolated themselves linguistically and culturally from the main society. After Falter had accused the Integration department of the Ministry to have changed "content and not only formatting" of the preliminary study, a tangible controversy emerged. Aslan then pointed out that he supported the published study. A review of the study was initiated by the University of Vienna.[49][50][51][52]

In January 2016, Kurz stated in an interview with the daily newspaper Die Welt regarding border security in Austria: "It is understandable that many politicians are afraid of ugly pictures relating to border security. However, we cannot just delegate this duty of ours to Turkey, because we don't want to get our hands dirty. It will not go without ugly pictures". The latter part of the quote was used by the green MEP Michel Reimon as a caption to a photo of the deceased refugee boy Aylan Kurdi and spread on Facebook. Reimon also referred to Kurz as an inhuman cynic. An ÖVP spokesman described it as "despicable that the Greens exploit the death of this little boy for party politics", Aylan was killed at a time "where there was no border security, but a policy of false hopes".[53][54]

Kurz with Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, 20 March 2017

In February 2016, Kurz attended the Western Balkans Conference in Vienna, as representative for Austria, alongside with Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner. The conference was heavily criticized by the EU, but the resulting blockade of the Balkan route was soon officially recognized by the EU.[55]

The recognition and assessment law presented by the Ministry of Integration was approved in July 2016. In order to facilitate the recognition of qualifications acquired abroad and the transfer of educational certificates.[56]

During commemorations and military parades for the end of World War II, Kurz visited Belarus on 5 May 2015, followed by a visit in Moscow where he met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He described the annexation of the Crimea and the support of the Eastern Ukrainian separatists as "contrary to international law". A softening of EU sanctions would not be possible without prior local improvements of the situation and without the implementation of the Minsk II agreement and that peace could only be achieved "with and not against Russia". In June 2016, he stated to support the proposals previously made by then-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to gradually withdraw sanctions in return for steps completed by Russia regarding the Minsk agreement.[57][58]

In November 2016, Kurz expressed his thanks as a representative of the European People's Party in a campaign appearance of the Macedonian sister party VMRO-DPMNE for supporting the closure of the Western Balkans route. Which was later criticized as an indirect campaigning aid.[59] In regards to the refugee crisis, the Ministry of Integration introduced values and orientation courses in all states.[60]

In March 2017, Kurz criticized rescue actions by aid organizations as "NGO insanity", as these would result in more refugees dying in the Mediterranean Sea rather than less. Kurz repeatedly demanded that refugees rescued in the Mediterranean Sea should no longer be taken to mainland Italy, but returned to refugee centers outside of Europe, as according to the Australian refugee model. His purposes were supported by the EU border agency Frontex, but opposed by aid organizations.[61]

Kurz with Georgian foreign minister Mikheil Janelidze in Tbilisi in February 2017

In March 2017, the Integration Act was passed in the Council of Ministers and subsequently enacted by the National Council in May 2017. It contains the right to attend German language courses, obliges participation in language and value courses and prohibits the distribution of expenditures of the Quran in public spaces by Salafists. A ban on full obfuscation in public spaces was regulated in the Anti-Face Veiling Act. The Integration Act was supplemented by an integration year law in accordance with the cabinet's draft. The obligatory charitable work of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, persons entitled to asylum and asylum seekers with good chances of recognition was regulated in the Integration Year Law and is referred to as "work training that is in the interest of the common good". The charitable work can take up to twelve months and is carried out by community service organizations. Participants of the integration year also receive an "integration card" that serves as a kind of certificate.[62][63][64]

In May 2017, the integration ambassador criticized Kurz's policy. According to a survey conducted by the immigrant magazine Bum Media, two thirds of the ambassadors for integration do not agree with the policy or individual aspects of the policy (especially the headscarf ban in the public). The same medium stated that of the 350 Integration ambassadors cited by the Foreign Ministry, only 68 were on the website.[65][66]

In Kurz's tenure as Foreign Minister, it was agreed to increase the funds for bilateral development cooperation from about 75 to about 150 million by 2021.[67]

The EU–Turkey agreement on the refugee crisis agreed in March, was described as necessary by Kurz. However, he advocated leaving Turkey as few tasks as possible such as returning refugees. To safeguard the Schengen border of the EU, Greece should be given more responsibility. He understands that many politicians are afraid of "ugly pictures" regarding border security, but it could not be that the EU would delegate this task to Turkey because they did not want to "get their hands dirty". Kurz said it will not go without "ugly pictures".

At the end of 2016, it was announced that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had canceled funding for the Südwind Magazine, which had been published monthly since 1979, for the association Südwind Entwicklungspolitik. This move caused criticism from various parties, as it endangered the survival of the magazine. The publisher representative of the Südwind magazine considered the cessation of funding "politically stupid". An Internet petition against the rejection of the funding was then launched.[68][69][70]

Kurz held his annual speeches as Foreign Minister before the United Nations General Assembly, respectively the UN Security Council, and participated in the review conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In addition, he also expressed his support for denuclearisation and the protection of persecuted Christians.[71][72][73][74]

Kurz with Sergey Lavrov at the OSCE summit in Mauerbach

As Austrian Foreign Minister, Kurz assumed the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in January 2017 for one year. In the first days of his new capacity he visited the disputed eastern Ukraine. In regards of EU sanctions against Russia, he proposed an "act-on-act system". A gradual lifting of sanctions in exchange for progress in the Ukraine conflict could trigger a "positive momentum". While the OSCE considered it to be a success that the OSCE observation mission in eastern Ukraine could be extended, there was also criticism on the agenda-setting of his incumbency, which according to Christian Nünlist, was partly based on his personal domestic political interests for Austria. As OSCE Chairperson, Kurz invited to an OSCE Summit in Mauerbach on 11 July 2017.[75][76][77][78]

On 18 December 2017, he handed over the Foreign Ministry to Freedom Party nominee Karin Kneissl.[citation needed]

ÖVP chairmanship[edit]

Already during the chairmanship of Reinhold Mitterlehner, many rumors arouse under the media and the party itself, speculating that it would be more and more likely for Kurz to takeover the party before the 2017 legislative election and to run as the top candidate of his party in that election.[79] In 2014, the daily newspaper Kurier already speculated on a possible top candidacy of Kurz for the next election.[80] On 10 May 2017, Mitterlehner announced his resignation as Minister, Vice-Chancellor and ultimately as party leader. Following Mitterlehner's withdrawal from politics, the party executive board nominated Kurz as the new chairman on 14 May that year. However, he declined to succeed Mitterlehner as Vice-Chancellor.[81] Before his official election to the chairmanship, Kurz posed seven requirements to the executive board[82] which were partially were already agreed upon before his nomination, some were even statutory enshrined. Unofficially assented changes were a request of the chairmen to be granted veto powers against federal nominees of state organisations and to obtain the prerogative to appoint federal nominees at their discretion.[83][84] The newspaper Falter reported that Kurz had already "pre-felt" if corporate donors would financially support his election campaign before assuming the chairmanship as apparently several millions of Euros have informally already been promised in donations.[85]

On 1 July 2017, Kurz was officially elected chairmen of the ÖVP by the Bundesparteitag (federal party conference) with 98,7 percent of the delegates vote and thereby almost achieved as much as his predecessor Reinhold Mitterlehner, who got 99,1 percent of the vote.[86]

2017 legislative election[edit]

In the 2017 legislative election, the Austrian People's Party competed under the alias Sebastian Kurz list – the new People's Party, but retained the abbreviation ÖVP.[87] Besides Kurz other nominees on the federal list (Bundesliste) were Elisabeth Köstinger, Josef Moser, Gaby Schwarz, Efgani Dönmez, Maria Großbauer, Rudolf Taschner, Tanja Graf, Karl Mahrer and Kira Grünberg.[88] The first part of the election program, titled "New Justice & Responsibility" (Neue Gerechtigkeit & Verantwortung), was presented on 4 September 2017 and it promised tax cuts, advocated against assets and inheritance taxes and for a reduction of the minimum income obtained by people without Austrian citizenship.[89] Already in June 2017, Kurz had announced that he would aim for a tax relief in the amount of 12 to 14 billion euros annually, counterbalanced by savings in the bureaucracy and "misguided social services", which would in particular affect child and family subsidy as well as the minimum income received by foreigners.[90][91]

The second part of the program, presented nine days later, comprised economics, education, research, culture and the environment. It also aimed to replace compulsory school attendance with "compulsory education". Children shall "be able to comprehensively read and know the basics of math", otherwise compulsory school attendance shall be extended up until the age of 18. In addition, there shall be a mandatory second kindergarten year for children with insufficient knowledge of the German language. And contributions to the social security system shall be reduced for people with lower incomes.[92]

On 27 September 2017, Kurz presented the third part of the election program; "Order and Security". Anyone arriving illegally shall be returned to their country of origin. If someones requires protection, they shall be harboured in a Protection Center within a third-party country. It also asked for an improved Punktesystem (scoring system) for legal immigrants. With regards to government reforms, it wished a more clearly defined separation of responsibilities between the federal government and the state and municipality governments. It also called for structural reforms within the EU, the implementation of the security compact and tougher punishments for violence against women and incitements.[93]

Chancellorship[edit]

Cabinet actions[edit]

As chancellor, Kurz enabled the 12 hour workday,[94] initiated a fusion of all social insurance companies,[95] passed the "Family Bonus Plus",[96] prohibited full face veils in the public, amended family subsidy for European foreigners,[97] installed the monitoring compact,[98] established compulsory German language classes,[99][100] presented the Digital Office[101] and federalized the basic income.[102] On request of his coalition partner he assented to overturn the smoking ban[103] and rejected the Global Compact for Migration.[104]

Cabinet composition[edit]

  Party leader       Served in acting capacity       Independent party nominee
Portrait Name
Cabinet membership
Office
Term in office
Portrait Name
Cabinet membership
Office
Term in office

People's Party (ÖVP)

Freedom Party (FPÖ)

Sebastian Kurz (2018-02-28) (cropped).jpg Sebastian Kurz
18 December 2017 – 28 May 2019
Chancellor of Austria 2017 ORF-Elefantenrunde (37410230120) (cropped).jpg Heinz-Christian Strache
18 December 2017 – 22 May 2019
Vice Chancellor of Austria
Minister of the Civil Service and Sport
2017 Finanzminister Hartwig Löger (39136614571) (cropped).jpg Hartwig Löger
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
Chancellor of Austria
28 May 2019 – 3 June 2019
Norbert Hofer - FPÖ-Neujahrstreffen 2019.JPG Norbert Hofer
18 December 2017 – 22 May 2019
Minister of Transport
Vice Chancellor of Austria
22 May 2019 – 28 May 2019
Minister of Finance
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
Josef Moser (4741871116).jpg Josef Moser
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
Minister of Justice Herbert Kickl (cropped).jpg Herbert Kickl
18 December 2017 – 22 May 2019
Minister of the Interior
Heinz Fassmann (cropped).jpg Heinz Faßmann
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
Minister of Education 2018 Karin Kneissl Paul Richard Gallagher (16. Jänner 2018) (24876263787) (cropped).jpg Karin Kneissl
18 December 2017 – 22 May 2019
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Elisabeth Köstinger (cropped).jpg Elisabeth Köstinger
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
Minister of Sustainability and Tourism 16-07-05-Mario Kunasek-KG 6051.JPG Mario Kunasek
18 December 2017 – 22 May 2019
Minister of Defense
Margarete Schramböck (cropped).jpg Margarete Schramböck
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
Minister of Digital and Economic Affairs 2018 Hartinger-Klein (41557839051) (cropped).jpg Beate Hartinger-Klein
18 December 2017 – 22 May 2019
Minister of Social Affairs
Juliane Bogner-Strauß (cropped).jpg Juliane Bogner-Strauß
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
Minister of the Civil Service and Sport
22 May 2019 – 3 June 2019
Chancellery minister of Woman, Families and Youth
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
2018 Gernot Blümel (39502202725) (cropped).jpg Gernot Blümel
18 December 2017 – 3 June 2019
Chancellery minister of the EU, Art, Culture and Media


End of term[edit]

On 17 May 2019, a political scandal known as the Ibiza affair was made public. The scandal involved Heinz-Christian Strache, Vice Chancellor and Freedom Party chairman, and Johann Gudenus, a Freedom Party deputy chair, asking for highly controversial electoral support from the mysterious woman who claimed to be the niece of Russian oligarch Igor Makarov.[105][106][107] The scandal led to widespread political consequences, triggered the end of the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition and ultimately resulted in the dismissal of Chancellor Kurz.

A day after the scandal, Strache announced his withdrawal from all political posts, but wished for the Kurz cabinet to remain in office.[108][109][110] However, the next day, Chancellor Kurz delivered an official statement about the scandal before a press conference and terminated the coalition with the words "enough is enough". He also stated that he had requested President Alexander Van der Bellen to summon a snap election.[111][112][113] The coalition agreement between the two parties was formally cancelled later that day.

The following day, speculations emerged that Kurz planned to propose the dismissal of Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. As a result, all Freedom Party ministers threatened that they would resign if Kurz actually did so. Kickl was already among the most controversial figures of the Freedom Party before the Ibiza affair and would, as interior minister, have headed the investigation into the scandal and therefore have prosecuted the former head of his own party.[114] In addition, Kickl appointed his subordinate Peter Goldgruber the Director General for the Public Security shortly after the scandal was revealed.[115]

On Monday the 20 May, Kurz asked President Van der Bellen to dismiss Kickl as Minister of the Interior. Ensuing Kurz’ request, all Freedom Party ministers proposed their resignation to the President, as they had announced.[116] Van der Bellen consented all requests and formally removed Kickl and the other ministers of his party on 23 May. The vacated ministerial posts were filled with experts.[117][118]

Due to the end of the coalition and the dismissal of Kickl, Kurz lost the majority in Parliament and soon had to face a motion of no confidence.[119] On 27 May, the Social Democratic Party presented its no-confidence vote against the whole cabinet before Parliament.[120][121] With the support of JETZT and the newly-in opposition Freedom Party, the motion obtained a qualified majority and successfully passed, ousting Kurz and his entire cabinet.[122][123][124][125] It was the first motion of no confidence against a Chancellor and their cabinet in the history of the republic to be successful.[126] The next day, Kurz was officially removed from office by President Van der Bellen, while the rest of his cabinet was immediately re-inaugurated after its removal to serve in a provisional capacity.[127] Finance Minister Hartwig Löger was named Kurz’ successor.[128][129]

Public profile[edit]

Following Kurz's first official visit to Berlin, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung found him "highly eloquent", "succinct" and "everything but sheepish", and even quoted those calling him the "young Metternich".[130] In December 2014, the German Press Agency praised Kurz as one of "seven winners on the political world stage 2014".[131]

Anna von Bayern of the Focus magazine wrote "one truly notices the new self-confidence of the Foreign Ministry, Kurz endowed it with new relevance". Vienna had become a "place of dialogue", first with the Ukraine summit in 2014 and later with the negotiations on the nuclear deal with Iran. In autumn 2015, the Syria discussions began in Vienna.[132]

In March 2016, Franz Schandl described Kurz in an article of Der Freitag newspaper as someone who draws a "friendly face". However, his substantive differences with his right-wing populist competitors were said to be only "marginal".[133]

In 2017, the U.S. magazine Time listed Kurz as one of ten "Next Generation Leaders". The "statesman of the new kind" has found a way to deal with the refugee crisis. The "pragmatic way" worked out and was adopted by other European politicians.[134]

Die Welt described Kurz as a "conservative-liberal, European-minded politician", whose rise to power in many ways resembled that of President Emmanuel Macron. The closure of the Balkan route had been a diplomatic feat.[135]

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung said Kurz embodied "uprising, confidence, dynamism, elegance and determination", while Angela Merkel stood for "stagnation". He was "sovereign, also sympathetic towards critics, and a master of the German language. If Kurz was German, he would be Chancellor, or right before becoming Chancellor".[136]

The magazine Cicero regarded Kurz as a "charismatic figure" in contrast to the "often naïve, all multi-cultural basically positive-looking German elites who enjoy the grace of late birth".[137]

Eric Frey, writing in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, wrote, with regards to the National Council election in 2017, that the "distrust" of the newspaper's editorial staff towards Sebastian Kurz would weigh heavy. This was because Kurz led a "foreigner election campaign", reducing problems to the topic of immigration, and would play the "strict law guardian". However, Frey also saw some grounds for tendencies supporting Kurz, saying that he was an "effective answer" to populists like "Haider, Strache and Co". Kurz would elaborate the majority opinion that immigration would have to be more strictly regulated, "without hounding and polemics". Kurz was a "natural talent in decision-making" with "high social and analytical capabilities". According to Frey, the crucial question was whether Kurz was liberal and democracy-minded or was a "wannabe Orbán". This question would currently be "unanswerable". A hypothetical Chancellor Kurz would "split the country like no other head of government before".[138]

In addition, parallels were drawn with Haider, until then the most successful federal leader of the right-wing populist FPÖ. The Rheinische Post wrote: "If we look directly at his supporters, Kurz strongly resembles Jörg Haider, the legendary right-wing populist, who about 30 years ago set out to destroy the eternal red-black proportional system – and ultimately failed. What changes Kurz strives for, was not clarified during his election campaign. The only thing truly clear, is that he wants to become Austria's youngest Chancellor. Therefore even calling for the installation of a Richtlinienkompetenz after the German example, in which ministers would be subordinated to the Chancellor".[139]

In June 2018, a commentary of Edward Lucas published by the Financial Times drew parallels with the current political development of Europe and the United States with the situation in the 1930s. Kurz was said to be easily comparable with the Republican U.S. President Donald Trump and the right-wing Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, and Lucas referred to him as the "right-wing Chancellor".[140] Following the commentary's publication, the Embassy of Austria in Washington contacted the author and demanded alteration, since they did not consider the article appropriate; the author changed the paragraphs in question.[141] In December 2018, the word Schweigekanzler (silent Chancellor) became Austria's word of the year for the second time. The jury chose the word because "Kurz avoids reacting to topics which are unpleasant for him, he also avoids commenting on actions and statements by members of the FPÖ, where the general public expects a clarification from the Chancellor".[142]

Spiegel Online ranked Kurz first in its ranking "Who will be important abroad in 2019?" (Wer wird 2019 im Ausland wichtig?). Seen internationally, it said the ÖVP politician had attracted considerable attention since he was "only 32 years old and rules with right-wing populists". Furthermore, the magazine said that "his right-wing populist coalition partner, the FPÖ, has pushed the boundaries of the word. In future, the tone against foreigners, refugees and migrants is likely to intensify further, because Kurz lets his coalition partner say bad things, but remains silent himself. Meanwhile, his popularity remains high".[143] In addition, the announcement at the end of December 2018 of a digital tax as part of tax reforms caused a furore in the international media.[144]

In 2018, Kurz was elected Sprachwahrer (wordkeeper) of the year by readers of the newspaper Deutsche Sprachwelt, and the word Schweigekanzler became the Austrian word of the year.[145][146]

Political stances[edit]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

Following a Constitutional Court ruling on 4 December 2017 that invalidated most of the registered partnership law, allowance for same-sex marriage in Austria went into effect on 1 January 2019.[147]

The People's Party and the Freedom Party opposed same-sex marriage and already rejected multiple bills emanating from the Social Democratic Party, the NEOS and the Greens that would have allowed for it before the court ruling. Nevertheless, Josef Moser (ÖVP), Minister of Justice, recognized the court's decision and commenced preparations for its implementation in September 2018.[148][149][150][151]

Kurz also opposed same-sex marriage and argued that discrimination has already been abolished with the legalisation of registered partnerships, stating:[152]

There already is the opportunity for partnering, there is the possibility for homosexual couples to adopt children – therefore, discrimination has already been eliminated.

Other activities[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]