|Chancellor of Austria|
|Assumed office |
18 December 2017
|President||Alexander Van der Bellen|
|Preceded by||Christian Kern|
|Chairman of the People's Party|
|Assumed office |
15 May 2017
|Preceded by||Reinhold Mitterlehner|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
16 December 2013 – 18 December 2017
|Chancellor||Werner Faymann |
|Preceded by||Michael Spindelegger|
|Succeeded by||Karin Kneissl|
|Chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe|
1 January 2017 – 18 December 2017
|Secretary General||Lamberto Zannier |
|Preceded by||Frank-Walter Steinmeier|
|Succeeded by||Karin Kneissl|
|State Secretary of the Interior for Integration|
21 April 2011 – 16 December 2013
|Member of the National Council|
9 November 2017 – 22 January 2018
29 October 2013 – 16 December 2013
|Nominated by||Michael Spindelegger|
|Born||27 August 1986|
Meidling, Vienna, Austria
|Political party||People's Party (2009–present)|
|Domestic partner||Susanne Thier|
|Education||GRG 12 Erlgasse (Matura)|
|Years of service||October 2004 – June 2005|
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 voluntarily left before graduating. Kurz joined politics when he entered the Young People's Party (JVP) in 2003. He assumed his first political office in 2008 as chairman of the JVP for Vienna. One year later, Kurz became the JVP's federal chairman.
In 2010, Kurz became a member of the Viennese state and city legislature. Following a reshuffle of the First Faymann cabinet 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 chairman 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 cabinet and led to the early 2017 legislative election in which Kurz participated as the top candidate of his party, gaining tremendous popularity with his core topics of immigration and social politics. Ultimately, under the campaign alias Sebastian Kurz List – the new People's Party his 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 cabinet by President Van der Bellen and subsequently formed a coalition with the Freedom Party. Kurz was sworn in as chancellor on 18 December 2017 alongside his new cabinet. During his chancellorship, Kurz enabled the 12 hour workday, initiated a fusion of all Austrian social insurances, enacted the Family Bonus Plus, prohibited full face veils in the public, amended family subsidy for European foreigners, installed the monitoring compact, established compulsory German language classes, rejected the Global Compact for Migration, presented the Digital Office and federalized the basic income.
His style of governing is regarded as active and expeditious by supporters, but uncooperative and hasty by opponents. In addition, Kurz is the youngest currently serving head of government in the world.
Kurz was born in Vienna, the only child of Roman Catholic parents Josef and Elisabeth Kurz. His father is an engineer and his mother is a grammar school teacher. 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.
Early life and educationEdit
Kurz was brought up in the Meidling district, where he still lives. He took his Matura qualification in 2004, completed compulsory military service and then began studying law at the University of Vienna in 2005, but later dropped out to focus on his political career.
Kurz had been a member of the Young People's Party (JVP) since 2003 and was sponsored by Markus Figl. From 2008 to 2012, he was chairman of the JVP in Vienna. In 2009, he was elected federal chairman of the JVP with 99 percent of the delegates vote, In 2012 he was re-elected with 100 percent of the vote. In 2017, he handed over the post of federal chair to lawyer Stefan Schnöll. From 2009 to 2016, he also served as deputy chairperson of the People's Party in Vienna. As chairman of the JVP in Vienna, he lead the youth campaign for the 2010 Viennese state election which had the slogan "Schwarz macht geil" (Black Makes Hot). In addition, he let a Geilomobil drive through Vienna.
From 2010 to 2011, he was a member of the Vienna State and Municipality diet, where he focused on generational fairness and ensuring pensions, before being nominated as State Secretary for Integration of the Ministry of the Interior in June 2011 following a reshuffle of the first Faymann cabinet. After the 2013 Austrian legislative election, in which he had won the most direct votes of any member in the election, he shortly served as a Member of the National Council. On 16 December 2013 Kurz tenure as MP ended and he was sworn in as the youngest foreign minister in Austrian history by President Heinz Fischer (at the age of 27).
Kurz saw the inclusion of religions and the dialogue with religious communities as important for integration. In the first months in his capacity as State Secretary, Kurz proposed several changes such as a second mandatory kindergarten year for children with language deficits. In 2011, the joint campaign Zusammen:Österrecih (Together:Austria) was created by the Integration State Secretariat, along with the Austrian Integration Fund and the Ministry of Education. The campaign proposed familiarising immigrants with Austrian landscape and culture as well as to convey values such as religious freedom and democracy. So-called "Integration Ambassadors" were sent to schools to discuss migrants' identification with Austria.
As Integration State Secretary, Kurz received an annual budget of 15 million euro as of 2011. This was increased to 100 million euros by 2017. The budget increase mainly occurred due to a large-scale expansion of German language courses together with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection.
Following the 2013 legislative election, Kurz took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Michael Spindelegger. In March 2014, his ministry's jurisdiction has been expanded and was additionally vested with matters of integration. Kurz denoted Western Balkans relations to be one of his top priorities, which is why his first foreign visit as minister was in Croatia. Good relationships with Israel has been very important to him "for historical reasons" and for a positive cooperation with the Jewish community in the field of integration.
During a visit in Belgrade on 26 February 2014, he reaffirmed Austria's continued support for the accession of Serbia into the European Union, also because Austrian economical and political interests. Together with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, he talked about the future of Bosnia and Austrian-Serbian relations in a historical context.
In November 2014, he presented the "#stolzdrauf" campaign. Which should encourage people to show what they are proud of in Austria on social networks. The campaign was intended to strengthen social cohesion, but evolved into a polarized debate. Especially Twitter has been affected of critical and sarcastic comments. Supporters of the campaign have been celebrities such as the former Miss Austria Amina Dagi or the musician Andreas Gabalier. Also involved in the campaign were President Heinz Fischer, the Austrian Airlines, the Jewish Community and the Islamic Religious Community. According to a report of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the left-wing especially opposed folksy Andreas Gabalier while the right did not want to recognize a headscarf wearer or a Tschuschn as real Austrians. The alt-right identitarian movement therefore disrupted the press conference on the presentation of the campaign. Also heavily criticized was the amount of money invested in the promotion of the campaign by the Foreign Ministry which amounted to €326,029 and €120,000 in five to six weeks, of which 55% flowed into newspaper advertisement at boulevard or free newspapers.
On 25 February 2015, an amendment to the Islam law was passed in the National Council. The amendment adjusted the law of 1912 and banned foreign financing of Islamic associations and was especially criticised by the Muslim community. It included the right of Muslims for pastoral care in the Armed Forces, detention centers, hospitals and nursing homes. A German translation of the Qur'an which had been demanded by Kurz was not contained in the amendment.
In June 2015, Kurz proposed to adjust the family subsidy for EU citizens working in Austria whose children live in the country of origin to the price level of their country. In addition, immigrants from other EU states should first have paid into the Austrian welfare system for a few years before they would be eligible to request financial aid in Austria. The SPÖ opposed the plans, but stated that the abuse of family subsidy needed to be better controlled. The FPÖ welcomed the proposals. The Greens accused Kurz and his party of "taking over the hate policy of the FPÖ".
At the end of June 2015 Kurz presented his plans to close Austrian embassies in Malta, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia until autumn 2018. At the same time, new embassies should be opened in Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Qatar and Singapore. His plans also included another Consulate General in China. He wanted to achieve financial savings through the sale of no longer needed real estate and by merging representative agencies.
Following the City of Vienna's rejection to commission a Ednan Aslan with a research project on Islamic kindergartens in 2014, the Ministry of Integration commissioned Aslan itself. The preliminary study, published at the end of 2015, came to the conclusion that Salafist tendencies were emerging and that the spread of Islamist ideologies was observable. Following this alarming study, the City of Vienna and the Ministry of Integration agreed to conduct a comprehensive scientific study on that matter. In addition, the city of Vienna increasingly started to review these kindergartens. In June 2017, Kurz demanded to close Islamic kindergartens in general, as they had isolated themselves linguistically and culturally from the main society. After Falter had accused the Integration department of the Ministry to have changed "content and not only formatting" of the preliminary study, a tangible controversy emerged. Aslan then pointed out that he supported the published study. A review of the study was initiated by the University of Vienna.
In January 2016, Kurz stated in an interview with the daily newspaper Die Welt regarding border security in Austria: "It is understandable that many politicians are afraid of ugly pictures relating to border security. However, we cannot just delegate this duty of ours to Turkey, because we don't want to get our hands dirty. It will not go without ugly pictures". The latter part of the quote was used by the green MEP Michel Reimon as a caption to a photo of the deceased refugee boy Aylan Kurdi and spread on Facebook. Reimon also referred to Kurz as an inhuman cynic. An ÖVP spokesman described it as "despicable that the Greens exploit the death of this little boy for party politics", Aylan was killed at a time "where there was no border security, but a policy of false hopes".
In February 2016, Kurz attended the Western Balkans Conference in Vienna, as representative for Austria, alongside with Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner. The conference was heavily criticized by the EU, but the resulting blockade of the Balkan route was soon officially recognized by the EU.
The recognition and assessment law presented by the Ministry of Integration was approved in July 2016. In order to facilitate the recognition of qualifications acquired abroad and the transfer of educational certificates.
During commemorations and military parades for the end of World War II, Kurz visited Belarus on 5 May 2015, followed by a visit in Moscow where he met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He described the annexation of the Crimea and the support of the Eastern Ukrainian separatists as "contrary to international law". A softening of EU sanctions would not be possible without prior local improvements of the situation and without the implementation of the Minsk II agreement and that peace could only be achieved "with and not against Russia". In June 2016, he stated to support the proposals previously made by then-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to gradually withdraw sanctions in return for steps completed by Russia regarding the Minsk agreement.
In November 2016, Kurz expressed his thanks as a representative of the European People's Party in a campaign appearance of the Macedonian sister party VMRO-DPMNE for supporting the closure of the Western Balkans route. Which was later criticized as an indirect campaigning aid. In regards to the refugee crisis, the Ministry of Integration introduced values and orientation courses in all states.
In March 2017, Kurz criticized rescue actions by aid organizations as "NGO insanity", as these would result in more refugees dying in the Mediterranean Sea rather than less. Kurz repeatedly demanded that refugees rescued in the Mediterranean Sea should no longer be taken to mainland Italy, but returned to refugee centers outside of Europe, as according to the Australian refugee model. His purposes were supported by the EU border agency Frontex, but opposed by aid organizations.
In March 2017, the Integration Act was passed in the Council of Ministers and subsequently enacted by the National Council in May 2017. It contains the right to attend German language courses, obliges participation in language and value courses and prohibits the distribution of expenditures of the Quran in public spaces by Salafists. A ban on full obfuscation in public spaces was regulated in the Anti-Face Veiling Act. The Integration Act was supplemented by an integration year law in accordance with the cabinet's draft. The obligatory charitable work of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, persons entitled to asylum and asylum seekers with good chances of recognition was regulated in the Integration Year Law and is referred to as "work training that is in the interest of the common good". The charitable work can take up to twelve months and is carried out by community service organizations. Participants of the integration year also receive an "integration card" that serves as a kind of certificate.
In May 2017, the integration ambassador criticized Kurz's policy. According to a survey conducted by the immigrant magazine Bum Media, two thirds of the ambassadors for integration do not agree with the policy or individual aspects of the policy (especially the headscarf ban in the public). The same medium stated that of the 350 Integration ambassadors cited by the Foreign Ministry, only 68 were on the website.
In Kurz's tenure as Foreign Minister, it was agreed to increase the funds for bilateral development cooperation from about 75 to about 150 million by 2021.
The EU–Turkey agreement on the refugee crisis agreed in March, was described as necessary by Kurz. However, he advocated leaving Turkey as few tasks as possible such as returning refugees. To safeguard the Schengen border of the EU, Greece should be given more responsibility. He understands that many politicians are afraid of "ugly pictures" regarding border security, but it could not be that the EU would delegate this task to Turkey because they did not want to "get their hands dirty". Kurz said it will not go without "ugly pictures".
At the end of 2016, it was announced that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had canceled funding for the Südwind Magazine, which had been published monthly since 1979, for the association Südwind Entwicklungspolitik. This move caused criticism from various parties, as it endangered the survival of the magazine. The publisher representative of the Südwind magazine considered the cessation of funding "politically stupid". An Internet petition against the rejection of the funding was then launched.
Kurz held his annual speeches as Foreign Minister before the United Nations General Assembly, respectively the UN Security Council, and participated in the review conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In addition, he also expressed his support for denuclearisation and the protection of persecuted Christians.
As Austrian Foreign Minister, Kurz assumed the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in January 2017 for one year. In the first days of his new capacity he visited the disputed eastern Ukraine. In regards of EU sanctions against Russia, he proposed an "act-on-act system". A gradual lifting of sanctions in exchange for progress in the Ukraine conflict could trigger a "positive momentum". While the OSCE considered it to be a success that the OSCE observation mission in eastern Ukraine could be extended, there was also criticism on the agenda-setting of his incumbency, which according to Christian Nünlist, was partly based on his personal domestic political interests for Austria. As OSCE Chairperson, Kurz invited to an OSCE Summit in Mauerbach on 11 July 2017.
Already during the chairmanship of Reinhold Mitterlehner, many rumors arouse under the media and the party itself, speculating that it would be more and more likely for Kurz to takeover the party before the 2017 legislative election and to run as the top candidate of his party in that election. In 2014, the daily newspaper Kurier already speculated on a possible top candidacy of Kurz for the next election. On 10 May 2017, Mitterlehner announced his resignation as Minister, Vice-Chancellor and ultimately as party leader. Following Mitterlehner's withdrawal from politics, the party executive board nominated Kurz as the new chairman on 14 May that year. However, he declined to succeed Mitterlehner as Vice-Chancellor. Before his official election to the chairmanship, Kurz posed seven requirements to the executive board which were partially were already agreed upon before his nomination, some were even statutory enshrined. Unofficially assented changes were a request of the chairmen to be granted veto powers against federal nominees of state organisations and to obtain the prerogative to appoint federal nominees at their discretion. The newspaper Falter reported that Kurz had already "pre-felt" if corporate donors would financially support his election campaign before assuming the chairmanship as apparently several millions of Euros have informally already been promised in donations.
On 1 July 2017, Kurz was officially elected chairmen of the ÖVP by the Bundesparteitag (federal party conference) with 98,7 percent of the delegates vote and thereby almost achieved as much as his predecessor Reinhold Mitterlehner, who got 99,1 percent of the vote.
2017 legislative electionEdit
In the 2017 legislative election, the Austrian People's Party competed under the alias Sebastian Kurz list – the new People's Party, but retained the abbreviation ÖVP. Besides Kurz other nominees on the federal list (Bundesliste) were Elisabeth Köstinger, Josef Moser, Gaby Schwarz, Efgani Dönmez, Maria Großbauer, Rudolf Taschner, Tanja Graf, Karl Mahrer and Kira Grünberg. The first part of the election program, titled "New Justice & Responsibility" (Neue Gerechtigkeit & Verantwortung), was presented on 4 September 2017 and it promised tax cuts, advocated against assets and inheritance taxes and for a reduction of the minimum income obtained by people without Austrian citizenship. Already in June 2017, Kurz had announced that he would aim for a tax relief in the amount of 12 to 14 billion euros annually, counterbalanced by savings in the bureaucracy and "misguided social services", which would in particular affect child and family subsidy as well as the minimum income received by foreigners.
The second part of the program, presented nine days later, comprised economics, education, research, culture and the environment. It also aimed to replace compulsory school attendance with "compulsory education". Children shall "be able to comprehensively read and know the basics of math", otherwise compulsory school attendance shall be extended up until the age of 18. In addition, there shall be a mandatory second kindergarten year for children with insufficient knowledge of the German language. And contributions to the social security system shall be reduced for people with lower incomes.
On 27 September 2017, Kurz presented the third part of the election program; "Order and Security". Anyone arriving illegally shall be returned to their country of origin. If someones requires protection, they shall be harboured in a Protection Center within a third-party country. It also asked for an improved Punktesystem (scoring system) for legal immigrants. With regards to government reforms, it wished a more clearly defined separation of responsibilities between the federal government and the state and municipality governments. It also called for structural reforms within the EU, the implementation of the security compact and tougher punishments for violence against women and incitements.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2019)
Following Kurz first official visit to Berlin, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported about him as "highly eloquent", "succinct" and "everything but sheepish". In December 2014, the German Press Agency praised Kurz as one of "seven winners on the political world stage 2014".
Anna von Bayern of the Focus magazine wrote "one truly notices the new self-confidence of the Foreign Ministry, Kurz endowed it with new relevance". Vienna had become a "place of dialogue", first with the Ukraine summit in 2014 and later with the negotiations on the nuclear deal with Iran. In autumn 2015, the Syria discussions began in Vienna.
In 2017, the U.S. magazine Time listed Kurz as one of ten "Next Generation Leaders". The "statesman of the new kind" has found a way to deal with the refugee crisis. The "pragmatic way" worked out and was adopted by other European politicians.
Die Welt describes Kurz as a "conservative-liberal, European-minded politician", whose rise to power in many ways resembles that of President Emmanuel Macron. The closure of the Balkan route had been a diplomatic feat.
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung said Kurz embodied "uprising, confidence, dynamism, elegance and determination", while Angela Merkel stood for "stagnation". He was "sovereign, also sympathetic towards critics, and a master of the German language. If Kurz was German, he would be Chancellor, or right before becoming Chancellor".
In March 2016, Franz Schandl described Kurz in an article of the Der Freitag newspaper as someone who draws a "friendly face". However, the substantive differences to the right-wing populist competitors are only "marginal".
Eric Frey, a writer of the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, wrote, with regards to the National Council election in 2017, that the "distrust" of the newspaper's editorial staff towards Sebastian Kurz would outweigh. This is because Kurz leads a "foreigner election campaign", reducing problems to the topic of immigration and that he would play the "strict law guardian". However, Frey also believes in grounds for supportive tendencies, saying that Kurz was an "effective answer" to populists like "Haider, Strache and Co". Kurz would elaborate the majority opinion, according to which immigration would have to be more strictly regulated, "without hounding and polemics". Kurz is a "natural talent in decision-making" with "high social and analytical capabilities". According to Frey, the crucial question is whether Kurz even is liberal and democratic minded or a "wannabe Orbán". This question would currently be "unanswerable". A hypothetical Chancellor Kurz would "split the country like no other head of government before".
In addition, parallels were drawn with Haider, the until-now most successful federal leader of the right-wing populist FPÖ. The Rheinische Post wrote: "If directly looking at his supporters, Kurz is strongly resembling Jörg Haider, the legendary right-wing populist, who set about 30 years ago to destroy the eternal red-black proportional system – and ultimately failed. What changes Kurz strives for, was not clarified during his election campaign. The only thing truly clear, is that he wants to become Austria's youngest Chancellor. Therefore even calling for the installation of a Richtlinienkompetenz after German example, in which ministers would be subordinated to the Chancellor".
In June 2018, a commentary of Edward Lucas published by the Financial Times, drew parallels with the current political development of Europe and the United States to that of the 1930s. Kurz was easily comparable with the Republican U.S. President Donald Trump and the right-wing Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and referred to him has the "right-wing Chancellor". Following the commentary's publication, the Embassy of Austria in Washington contacted the author and demanded alteration since they did not consider the article appropriate; the author changed the respective paragraphs. In December 2018, the word Schweigekanzler (silent Chancellor) became Austria's word of the year for the second time. The jury chose the word because "Kurz avoids reacting to topics which are unpleasant for him, he also avoids commenting actions and statements by members of the FPÖ, where the general public expects a clarification from the Chancellor".
Spiegel Online ranked Kurz first in its ranking "Who will be important abroad in 2019?" (Wer wird 2019 im Ausland wichtig?). Seen internationally, the ÖVP politician has attracted considerable attention since he "is only 32 years old and rules with right-wing populists". Furthermore, the statements said that "his right-wing populist coalition partner the FPÖ, has pushed the boundaries of the word. In future, the tone against foreigners, refugees and migrants should intensify further, because Kurz lets the coalition partner say bad things, but remains silent himself. Meanwhile, his popularity remains high". In addition, the announcement of a digital tax as part of a tax reform until the end of December 2018 also caused a furor in international media.
The People's Party and the Freedom Party opposed same-sex marriage and already rejected multiple bills emanating from the Social Democratic Party, the NEOS and the Greens that would have allowed for it before the court ruling. Nevertheless, Josef Moser (ÖVP), Minister of Justice, recognized the court's decision and commenced preparations for its implementation in September 2018.
There already is the opportunity for partnering, there is the possibility for homosexual couples to adopt children – therefore, discrimination has already been eliminated.
- Austrian Development Agency, Chairman of the Advisory Council on Development Policy
- Austrian Society for China Studies (ÖGCF), member of the Board of Trustees
- General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism, ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees
- Political Academy of the Austrian People's Party, President (since 2015)
- European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), member
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- New-constitution of Advisory Council on Development Policy: Make development cooperation a concern of the broad public Archived 2015-09-06 at the Wayback Machine Austrian Development Agency, press release of 18 February 2015.
- Board of Trustees Archived 2017-10-16 at the Wayback Machine, General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism.