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PROFILE The faces of Austria's new right-wing government

Europe
16.12.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Vienna (dpa) - A young ambitious chancellor, a populist vice chancellor with a radical past and a foreign minister with deep knowledge of the Middle East are set to represent Austria in the coming years. The government is due to be sworn in on Monday.

SEBASTIAN KURZ, chancellor-designate, People‘s Party (OeVP):

The 31-year-old‘s youthful look masks years of effort to climb to the top of Austrian politics.

Growing up in Vienna, Kurz became involved in conservative politics already as a teenager.

Shortly after becoming chairman of the OeVP‘s youth organization in 2009, he entered government in 2011 as a junior minister for integration of migrants. He went on to become foreign minister in 2013, at the age of 27.

While Kurz initially reached out to Austria‘s Muslim and migrant communities, his tone changed when tens of thousands of refugees streamed into the country in 2015.

Since then, he has taken a tough stance against immigration that is very similar to that of the right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPOe).

HEINZ-CHRISTIAN STRACHE, vice chancellor-designate, Freedom Party (FPOe):

When Strache became party chief in 2005, the FPOe was reeling from a dismal election result of 10 per cent.

Since then, the populists have gained the support from more than a quarter of Austrian voters, thanks to Strache‘s efforts to bring the party from the far-right to the centre of politics.

Strache had contacts with extremist right-wing figures and took part in paramilitary training as a youth, but he has since argued that he did not share the views of the people he associated with.

The 48-year-old has tried to appear statesmanlike in recent years, using measured language to promote his anti-immigration policies, and cracking down on party members who voice extremist views.

KARIN KNEISSL, foreign minister-designate, independent:

The FPOe nominated the 52-year-old Middle East policy analyst as the country‘s chief diplomat.

A former diplomat, Kneissl speaks six languages including Arabic and Hebrew.

She has defined herself as a "conservative free spirit" and is known for her pithy quotes.

Kneissl has warned that Europe has become vulnerable because of the refugee crisis, and she has criticized Germany‘s open stance towards asylum seekers.

Last year, she called European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker a "cynic in power" who is "rude" and "arrogant."

Austrians know Kneissl for her frequent appearances as an analyst in television debates. She has also been teaching in various institutions including Vienna University.

 

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