Austria's Kurz strikes coalition deal with Greens in swing to left


Austria's Conservative People's Party leader Sebastian Kurz will resume the chancellorship as one of the world's youngest leaders in a new coalition government with the Green Party.

The young leader announced the new coalition deal on New Year’s Day after a final round of coalition talks.

“We reached an agreement, a breakthrough, and will with our teams try to clarify all the details overnight,” Kurz, 33, said Wednesday evening during a joint press conference with Green Party leader Werner Kogler in Vienna.

The agreement — reached some three months after the country’s general election — is a swing to the left for the Austrian government, which was previously led by Kurz under a coalition agreement with the far-right Freedom Party.

“Frankly, these negotiations on the government were not easy, because both parties are based on very different foundations. But, in my opinion, we achieved an excellent result,” Kurz added about the ideological differences of both parties.

Video scandal

While the Freedom Party suffered significant losses in the September election, the Greens gained almost nine points, securing 12.4% of the vote.

Kogler, who has led the Green Party since October 2017, has pledged to introduce greater transparency within the Austrian government.

“Austria will, I believe, have the most intense and largest transparency packages in recent decades, with an offensive towards free information and towards a transparent state,” he told reporters.

Kurz, who will lead the coalition as Chancellor, added that this new coalition government will aim to “protect the climate and the borders,” re-asserting his party’s commitment to curbing illegal immigration.

“It is possible to reduce the tax burden and to ecologize the tax system. And it is possible to protect the climate and the borders,” Kurz said, adding that his government will implement “measures against illegal migration and political Islam” in Austria.

Kurz’s People’s Party came first in the country’s general election in September, winning in every federal state except the capital Vienna, according to the Austrian Interior Ministry.

The election was triggered after Kurz and his right-wing coalition government lost a vote of no-confidence in May, making him the first Austrian Chancellor since World War II to be defeated by a no-confidence motion.

The vote was prompted by a corruption scandal over a secretly-filmed video. It showed former Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, from the far-right Freedom Party, appearing to offer state contracts to a woman falsely claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

Strache denied any wrongdoing and resigned after the tape was revealed.