Austria’s president on Monday swore in a new government formed as a coalition of the Conservative Party and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). The Conservative party head Sebastian Kurz, who is 31, is Austria’s youngest ever chancellor and says that his government will not seek to leave the European Union.
A commitment to the EU was a condition set by President Alexander Van der Bellen for any new government, in the light of the FPÖ calling for a referendum on EU membership less than two years ago. Kurz’s party, the ÖVP, holds eight ministries, as opposed to the FPÖ’s six. Responsibility for EU policy has been moved from the foreign ministry, which is now held by the FPÖ, to Kurz’s own chancellorship. What has drawn some consternation is the fact that all three ministries relating to security – interior, foreign, and defence – are headed by candidates of the FPÖ.
The coalition published on Saturday an outline of its agenda. The most important points are: More money for families, less for the long-term unemployed; reduction of redundancy in bureaucratic structures; a wide-ranging tax reform with emphasis on increasing competitiveness of Austrian businesses; push forward infrastructure and the use of digital technologies. The new government also seeks to introduce stricter laws on migration: While their asylum process is ongoing, asylum seekers will only receive material goods rather than money. On entering the country their phones will be searched for information to verify the accuracy of their claims, and their cash shall be taken from them.
The new government consists of ten men and six women, which is the most equal gender ratio achieved so far in an Austrian government.