Oct 10, 2021
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Chancellor Kurtz left, but he did not leave

There is a fuss around the political course of Austria

The young Austrian politician Sebastian Kurz recently turned 36, and this is the second time he is losing his post as Austrian Chancellor. The first time Kurz lost this position in 2019, when the parliament expressed no confidence in him due to the corruption of his entourage associated with the intentions of some mythical Russian oligarchs to buy the newspaper. Cronen newspaper… This purchase and sale was supposed to move Russian buyers so much that they promised support to Sebastian Kurz’s coalition ally, the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, Christian Strache.

Let’s begin with that Cronen newspaper is the largest Austrian newspaper with an audience of 2.97 million people, or 43.7% of all reading Austrians. The daily circulation is 1 million copies. For many years, the editorial staff of the newspaper has professed leftist views and does not enjoy the sympathies of the European ruling elite. And the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party Christian Strache, with whom the scandal around the newspaper was tied, is perceived in European (primarily German) politicians almost like a Nazi. The dream of “etching” him out of Austrian political life has long warmed the souls of many players in Brussels. True, this is not due to his right-wing views, but to a firm course towards preserving the national identity of Austria. In general, the scandal was planned flawlessly, according to the formula “three killings in one fell swoop” – a left-wing newspaper, a right-wing politician and an “informal” Kurz.

There were all the attributes of the activities of the knights of the cloak and dagger: hidden video recordings of some secret conversations, the vagueness of the intentions of the intruders, the stuffing of sensational publications into the media.

The scandal achieved its goal: Kurz left, and along with him should have gone that for which his “older neighbors” in Europe did not like him so much: the defense of the national culture against the invasion of foreign cultural elements, a consistent non-aligned policy. Kurz was the initiator of the Islam Act, which prohibited foreign funding for mosques. He insisted that the Friday sermons of the imams be delivered exclusively in German, and German became the only language allowed in kindergartens. He introduced fines for visitors who did not want to learn German. When the migration crisis of 2015-2016 broke out and 450 thousand migrants found themselves in Austria, Kurz sharply criticized the policy of Germany and personally Angela Merkel. He actually supported Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in their reluctance to accept migrants and, together with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, refused to approve the EU budget.

In 2019, Kurz seemed to be toppled, but not for long. Six months later, early parliamentary elections were held, his ANP party won again, he regained his position as chancellor and continued his previous policy. In the eyes of the legislators of the political life of the European Union, this looked like a challenge. New times were dawning in the world and people like Sebastian Kurz did not fit into the “new format”, especially when it came to Russia.

Here, Kurz’s policies have long been suspicious. He never made harsh statements about Russia, emphasizing the importance of dialogue with her. And most importantly, he comes up with the idea of ​​a gradual lifting of sanctions as progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements. He has consistently advocated the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Worse, Kurz does not regard the Navalny case as a stumbling block in the development of relations with Russia, although, of course, he makes the necessary reservations. Apparently, his initially cool attitude towards the Merkel government allows him to objectively judge the circumstances of this scandalous case. After all, the FRG government openly ignores cooperation with the law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation in the investigation of Navalny’s “poisoning”. Therefore, it is not surprising that some forces concocted another scandal that led to the resignation of Kurz. And again a newspaper appears in the scandal, or rather a tabloid Austria… It is a reputable Viennese publication with a daily audience of about 10% of the entire press market.

Now suspicions have been raised of possible deals between Kurz’s entourage and the press. As if the Ministry of Finance in 2016-2018 used budget money to pay for advertisements in Austria, where a positive image of Kurz was formed, allegedly allowing him to first lead the conservative People’s Party, and then take the post of chancellor. Kurz himself is to be accused of complicity in corruption. As soon as these reports appeared, opposition parties in parliament demanded the Chancellor’s resignation. On the evening of October 9, he announced his resignation, not because he admits the accusations, but to prevent the collapse of the ruling coalition with the Greens.

The new corruption case looks no less ridiculous than the old one.

If transferred to the realities of the United States, publishers of American media that supported the Democrats would have to go to life sentences for defaming Republican candidates for rampant false praise of their candidates. However, they didn’t. Therefore, the mouse fuss around Kurz is not a story about corruption at all. It is connected with the political course of Austria.

Sebastian Kurz is, from the point of view of European liberals, an “pacer”. He does not fit into a policy that apparently envisions a new round of gas war with Russia. Accusing Russia of deliberately unleashing the “gas crisis” and adopting new economic sanctions against it – this is what is read in all the headlines in the major European press. In this regard, Austria has an important place. Here, in the Austrian Baumgarten, is the largest gas hub in Europe (Central European Gas Hub CEGH), through which Russian gas flows in different directions. And the European Union needs the Austrian Chancellor to be tame.

It’s just not clear whether the EU will succeed. Kurz resigned as a result of a political technology conspiracy, not a national crisis. The ruling coalition remains in power, the new chancellor will be the foreign minister from the Kurz government, Alexander Schallenberg, and Kurz himself remains a member of parliament and chairman of the Austrian People’s Party. He still has enough levers to influence Austrian politics. And if the behind-the-scenes writers decide to get rid of Kurtz in earnest, they’ll have to invent something more effective.

Photo: REUTERS / Lisi Niesner

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