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Sebastian Kurz (German pronunciation: [zeˈbastˌi̯a:n ˈkʊrt͡s]; born 27 August 1986) is Chancellor of Austria since December 2017 and Chairman of the Austrian People's Party since May 2017.

Sebastian Kurz
Sebastian Kurz (2018-02-28) (cropped).jpg
Chancellor of Austria
Assumed office
18 December 2017
PresidentAlexander Van der Bellen
DeputyHeinz-Christian Strache
Preceded byChristian Kern
Chairman of the People's Party
Assumed office
15 May 2017
Preceded byReinhold Mitterlehner
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
16 December 2013 – 18 December 2017
ChancellorWerner Faymann
Christian Kern
Preceded byMichael Spindelegger
Succeeded byKarin Kneissl
Chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
In office
1 January 2017 – 18 December 2017
Secretary GeneralLamberto Zannier
Thomas Greminger
Preceded byFrank-Walter Steinmeier
Succeeded byKarin Kneissl
State Secretary of the Interior for Integration
In office
21 April 2011 – 16 December 2013
ChancellorWerner Faymann
MinisterJohanna Mikl-Leitner
Personal details
Born (1986-08-27) 27 August 1986 (age 32)
Vienna, Austria
Political partyPeople's Party (2009–present)
Domestic partnerSusanne Thier[1]
Parents
  • Elisabeth Kurz
  • Josef Kurz
ResidenceMeidling, Vienna[2]
EducationGRG 12 Erlgasse (Matura)[3]
Signature
Website
Military service
Allegiance Austria
Service/branch Bundesheer
Years of serviceOctober 2004 – June 2005[4]
Stationed atMaria-Theresien-Kaserne

Kurz was born and raised in Meidling, Vienna. He obtained his Matura in 2004 at the GRG 12 Erlgasse and subsequently completed mandatory military service in 2005. Following the same year, Kurz attended the faculty of law (Juridicum) at the University of Vienna, but did not graduate there since he voluntarily left. Kurz joined politics when he entered the Young People's Party (JVP) in 2003. He assumed his first political office in 2008 as the chairmen of the JVP for Vienna. One year later, Kurz became the JVP's federal chairmen.

In 2010, Kurz became a member of the Viennese state and city legislature. Following a reorganization of cabinet Faymann I in 2011, he became state secretary for integration in the Ministry of the Interior. In 2013, Kurz shortly served as a member of the National Council. After the 2013 legislative election, Kurz was appointed Foreign Minister and became the youngest person to ever hold this position in Austrian history.

After the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner as chairmen of the People's Party in May 2017, Kurz was appointed his successor. Mitterlehner's withdrawal from all political posts triggered the end of the Kern government and thus lead to the early 2017 legislative election, in which Kurz participated as top candidate of his party, gaining tremendous popularity with his core topics immigration and social politics. Ultimately his party, under the campaign alias "Sebastian Kurz List – the new People's Party", achieved the first place in the election, receiving 31.5% of the vote.

As leader of the largest party after the election, Kurz was charged with the formation of a new government by President Alexander Van der Bellen and started to look out for a coalition partner to ensure a majority in legislature. The search and subsequent negotiations turned out quick and his party went into a coalition government with the Freedom Party. Kurz was sworn in as chancellor on 18 December 2017 alongside with his new government. During his chancellorship, Kurz enabled the 12 hours working day, initiated a fusion of all Austrian social insurances, enacted the "Family Bonus Plus", abolished the smoking ban, prohibited headscarfs in the public, amended family subsidy for European foreigners, installed the monitoring compact, established compulsory German language classes and rejected the Global Compact for Migration. As chancellor, Kurz has frequently been described as publicly restrained.

His style of governing is regarded as active and expeditious by supporters, but uncooperative and hasty by opposers.[citation needed] His popular support increased during his chancellorship, although his policies have strongly been criticized by the opposition, trade unions as well as foreign politicians and not least by members of his own party. In addition, Kurz is the youngest currently serving head of government in the world.

Contents

Early life and educationEdit

Kurz was born in Vienna, the only child[5] of Roman Catholic parents Josef and Elisabeth Kurz. His father is an engineer and his mother is a grammar school teacher.[6] His maternal grandmother, Magdalena Müller - born 1928, Temerin, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (today Vojvodina, Serbia) - is a Danube Swabian who fled from the city and settled in Zogelsdorf (today in Austria) during World War II after the Yugoslav Partisans and the Red Army started to occupy the territory that was then part of the Kingdom of Hungary.[7][8][9]

He was brought up in the Meidling district, where he still lives. He took his A levels[10][clarification needed] in 2004, completed compulsory military service, and then began studying law at the University of Vienna[11][12] in 2005 but later dropped out to focus on his political career.[13][14]

Political careerEdit

Youth branch and National CouncilEdit

In 2009 Kurz was elected chairman of the youth branch of the Austrian People's Party. Between 2010 and 2011 he was a member of Vienna's city council, where he focused on generational fairness and ensuring pensions.[15] In April 2011, he was appointed to the newly created post of State Secretary for Integration (part of the Ministry of the Interior).[16]

In the 2013 general election, Kurz was elected as a member of the National Council, winning the most direct votes of any member in the election.[17]

Foreign Minister of Austria (2013–2017)Edit

In December 2013, Kurz became Austria's foreign minister, whose portfolio at his request was widened to include social integration. At the time of his swearing-in Kurz was Austria's youngest government minister since the foundation of the republic and the youngest foreign minister in the world[18].

His first trip abroad was Croatia, marking the continuous Austrian support for that country's accession to the European Union.[19] In February 2014, he hosted the first of several rounds of negotiations on the nuclear program of Iran in Vienna, strengthening Austria's position as a place of dialogue.[citation needed]

The negotiations were successfully concluded on 14 July 2015, when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was signed by Iran, the P5+1 and the European Union. Following the signature Sebastian Kurz said he was pleased with the outcome of the talks with Iran, and expressed his hope that “the Vienna Agreement will act as catalyst towards the global nuclear disarmament ambitions”.[20]

During his first year in office, Kurz chaired the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe until May 2014.[21] In May 2014, as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Sebastian Kurz invited 30 ministers of foreign affairs, among them Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian colleague Andrii Deshchytsia, to Vienna in order to negotiate solutions to end the Ukrainian crisis.[22]

 
Kurz with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 4 April 2016

As part of the Humanitarian Initiative, Kurz hosted the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in late 2014.[23] Following his proposal, Vienna later hosted the negotiations leading to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the nuclear program of Iran in 2015.[citation needed] In November 2014, Sebastian Kurz was appointed to lead the European People's Party foreign affairs ministers together with Elmar Brok, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the EP.[24][25]

 
Kurz with Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, 20 March 2017

In the course of the European migrant crisis in 2015, Kurz called for more effective control of the EU's external borders[26] and presented a 50-point plan towards integration with a special focus on the areas of language and education, labour and the job market, rule of law and values.[27]

In 2015, he proposed a new law prohibiting the foreign funding of mosques or payment of imams' salaries, and regulation of the version of the Quran that may be used in Austria.[28] The law provides Muslims with additional rights, such as the right to halal food and pastoral care in the military. Kurz said the changes were intended to "clearly combat" the influence of radical Islam in Austria.[29] The law passed by the Austrian parliament in February 2015 did not call for an authorized version of the Quran.[30]

Amid the Turkish government purge against members of its own civil and military service in reaction to a failed coup d'état in July 2016, Kurz summoned Turkey's ambassador to explain Ankara's links to demonstrations of thousands of people in Austria in support of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.[31]

Chairman of the Austrian People's Party (2017–present)Edit

Kurz was appointed acting party leader after former head Reinhold Mitterlehner stepped down in May 2017. He was later formally elected chairman, receiving 98.7 percent of the votes at a party convention in Linz. The delegates approved changes to the party statute, which put more power in the party leader’s hands, including the power to set party policy, the power to appoint party ministers, and the power to name candidates to stand for election.[32]

 
Sebastian Kurz is speaking as new Chancellor in the upper chamber of the Austrian Parliament


ChancellorshipEdit

This section is a list of notable actions made by the Kurz government. Most governments in Austrian history have been coalition governments composed of two parties – the senior party and the junior party. Since the Chancellor can't issue directives towards cabinet members, coalition governments of two parties are in practice a co-rule between the leader of the senior and the leader of the junior party, each de facto controlling the ministers of their own party.

Family Bonus

As of July 4, Chancellor Kurz and his government enacted the Family Bonus Plus ("Familienbonus Plus"). Starting on 1 January 2019, the bonus will allow for a specific amount to be annually deducted of parents income taxes – maximum €1,500 per child underage (which is €125 per month) and €500 per child of age. The bonus only affects parents whose children obtain child subsidy ("Kinderbeihilfe"). The maximum relief amount can be acquired, when at least one parent earns a minimum of €1,350 net per month. The minimum relief amount is €250 and can be acquired by every employed single parent, regardless of their monthly income; unemployed parents will receive no bonus.

In addition, the bonus replaces several other child subsidies, such as the child tax credit ("Kinderfreibetrag"), which granted €440 to a single parent and €600 to a couple, and the childcare costs ("Absetzbarkeit der Kinderbetreuungskosten"), which granted €2,300 annually per child under 10 years of age.

The Social Democratic Party heavily criticised the bonus for "being solely of benefit for well-earning people and completely forgetting the less well-earners and unemployed".[33][34][35][36][37][38]

 
Kurz with Russian President Vladimir Putin, 28 February 2018
 
Kurz with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, 12 June 2018

Fusion of social insurances
On 13 December 2018 the Kurz government enacted an amendment to the social insurance law. The changes shall reform the organisation and structure of Austria's social insurance system, mainly through fusion and with dismissing "redundant" functionaries as well as modernizing workplaces. The government stated that "centralizing the social insurance system will improve services for the insured".

Following insurance organizations will be merged:

  • the nine health insurances of Austria's nine states (Gebietskrankenkassen) into the federal-level Austrian Health Insurance (ÖGK).
  • the Social Insurance for the Commercial Economy with the one of the farmers into the Social Insurance for Independents (SVS).
  • the Insurance for Railways and Mining with the Insurance for Governmental Officials into the "BVAEB".

The Pension Insurance (PVA) and the Insurance for Occupational Risks (AUVA) will remain untouched. In addition the Association of Austrian Social Insurances (Hauptverband der österreichischen Sozialversicherungsträger), which comprises all social insurance organisations, will be reduced and disempowered when the amendment is in effect.

The project will officially begin in April 2019 with the initiation of a parliamentary transitional committee managing and supervising the fusion. The committee will be abolished at the end of 2019 and starting 2020 the new organisation and structure will be in full effect.

The opposition (consisting of SPÖ NEOS and NOW), the chairman of the Association of Austrian Social Insurances and multiple health economists have condemned these changes, saying that "they would not centralize but decentralize and impair a perfectly functioning and effective system and thus be a general worsening for the insured".[39][40][41][42]

12 hours working day
On 1 September, the Kurz government passed an amendment to the working time law ("Arbeitszeitgesetzt") in the National Council, which has commonly been referred to as the 12 hours working day ("12-Stunden-Arbeitstag"). The amendment did not pass through the usual assessment process ("Begutachtungsprozess"). The average working time in Austria is 8 hours per day, the amendment extended the maximum working time of 10 hours per day to 12 hours and the 50 hours working time per week to 60 hours. Chancellor Kurz and his government commented the changes with "legally allowing employees to work more a day on a voluntary basis". In theory, this means that an employee could technically decline an employer's request to work more.

Prior to the amendment it has only been possible to work longer than 10 hours per day in certain circumstances and always with the explicit approval of the works council. Principal supporters of these changes have been the Economic Chamber and the Federation of Industries. Main opposers on the other side have been the Social Democratic Party, the Peter Pilz List, the Chamber for Workers and Employees, as well as the Trade Union Federation. Opposers have raised strong concerns regarding the amendment, doubting an actual appliance of the "voluntary basis", since they expect the employer to refuse a denial of the employee to work longer and thus dismiss the employee.[43][44][45]

Family subsidy for European foreigners
In October 2018, the Kurz government amended the family subsidy for European foreigners through legislation, the changes will be in effect as of 1 January 2019. The amendment affects foreign citizens of the European Union which work within Austria but whose children reside outside of Austria. The changes adjust family subsidy obtained by these children to the local price level of their country of residence. The amendment especially pertains workers of the social and civil sector, such as nurses.

The European Commission admonished the government of amending family subsidy for European foreigners, since Union Law states that "equal contributions to the system, must be awarded with equal services". The Commission considers to sue Austria at the European Court of Justice as soon as the amendment turns into effect.[46][47][48]

Other activitiesEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-10-16. Retrieved 2017-12-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Spindelegger
Minister for Foreign Affairs
2013–2017
Succeeded by
Karin Kneissl
Preceded by
Christian Kern
Chancellor of Austria
2017–present
Incumbent
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
2017
Succeeded by
Karin Kneissl
Party political offices
Preceded by
Reinhold Mitterlehner
Chair of the Austrian People's Party
2017–present
Incumbent