Austria’s far-right Freedom Party wins key ministries

In a boost to Europe’s nationalist movements, Austria’s right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPOe) returned to power in Austria after 12 years picking key ministries and reaffirming its commitment to a strong European Union (EU) and tough immigration policy.

After seven weeks of talks with conservative People’s Party (OeVP), FPOe managed to present a new coalition led by 31-year-old chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz (Pictured), the world’s youngest leader. Austria’s president Alexander Van der Bellen approved the new coalition on Saturday.

Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache will be the vice-chancellor. He will also serve as minister for sports and public servants. Other ministries including interior, defence, foreign, health and social security have gone to Freedom Party.

Herbert Kickl will take charge as interior minister. Karin Kneissl, a 52-year-old Middle East expert, has been nominated by Freedom Party as the new foreign minister.

Kurz’s People’s Party will have seven ministers and one deputy. They include the finance, economy and justice ministries. The ministers are due to be sworn in on Monday (Dec 17).

The coalition team published a 180-page pact on Saturday reaffirming their commitment to a strong Europe, end illegal migration and expedite the asylum process. At the micro level, they also renewed their promise of setting up over 2,000 new police positions, more flexible working hours, lower taxes and some tax relief to families.

Speaking at a far-right congress in Prague on Saturday, Geert Wilders, founder of the Dutch anti-Islam Party for Freedom, said the FPOe’s entry into government was “an excellent result”. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, called it “very good news for Europe”.