After helping to organize the “Axis of the Willing” and putting Angela Merkel in a very precarious position in Germany, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is poised to reshape the direction of the European Union. Or so he hopes, anyway. Working with Germany’s Foreign Minister along with the leaders of Italy, Hungary, Poland and others, Kurz is poised to essentially seal off Europe from African migrants and restore normal border security between nations. And all of this is happening at a time when Austria is set to take their turn in the rotating leadership of the European Union. At only 31 years of age, the “rock star of the European right” has come a long way. (Washington Post)
Just six months into his term as chancellor, Kurz is seizing a febrile moment in European politics to make himself into one of the continent’s true power players.
In the next few weeks alone, he is trying to seal off Europe from asylum seekers arriving by sea, orchestrate a summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and, critics say, undermine Germany’s Angela Merkel, the most consequential European leader of the past decade.
The 63-year-old, four-term Merkel could see her government collapse as soon as this weekend. If it does, she will have mutinous members of her own conservative bloc to blame. But equally important will be the role of Kurz, who has repeatedly appeared in public with the German rebels to bolster their zero-tolerance immigration stance and not so subtly take aim at his fellow chancellor.
In addition to upsetting the applecart in Germany and steering opinion on unlimited migrant settlement, Kurz seems to be dipping his toe into global politics. He very nearly negotiated his way into being the host of the proposed summit between President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. It had been rumored to be held in Vienna next month, though now it appears that it’s been moved to Finland. Still, Kurz has had nothing but praise for both leaders and seems to be setting himself up for a role in those talks.
At the same time, Kurz has been ramping up operations in his own country, preparing his citizens in case another “migrant wave” such as the one Merkel invited begins anew. (The Local, Austria)
Over 500 policemen and 220 soldiers took part at the border crossing of Spielfeld, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.
“A state which can’t protect its borders when needed loses its credibility,” said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, who oversaw the exercise along with Defence Minister Mario Kunasek.
Both men are members of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), which since last year has been the junior partner in a coalition government under conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz which has been at pains to emphasise its anti-immigration message.
Among the military hardware on display on Tuesday were two “Black Hawk” helicopters. During the exercises, police cadets played the role of migrants standing at border gates asking to be let in.
Kurz appears to be modeling his approach in the style of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has cut illegal immigration to his country to nearly zero. He did it by defying European Union dictates and building a border fence and patrol zone across the entire southern border of his nation. (He later sent a bill for half the cost of the fence to Belgium, but the EU apparently never paid up.)
Ten years ago, Kurz was a university dropout with questionable prospects. But by the age of 24, he was a member of the Austrian Cabinet. Now he’s the youngest leader in Europe (if not the world) and it’s unclear what his endgame is. Austria is barely one-tenth the size of Germany and they don’t have the economy to push around the larger, western members of the union in that regard. But Kurz is turning himself into a powerbroker nonetheless.