The alarming rise of the far-right continues across the European Union and is no longer limited to election victories in some countries. The Austrian far-right has become a part of the new coalition government, securing a number of important ministries.
This situation, however, is nothing new for Austria. Led by Jörg Haider, the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) shocked all of Europe in 2000, when it became part of the government with the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).
The 14 EU countries reacted harshly against the move. Many members of the European Parliament (MEPs), of which I was also a member then, even demanded Austria's dismissal from the EU. I remember how many MEPs were disappointed when it turned out that ending the EU membership of a country was quite difficult.
Back then, there used to be self-respecting reactions against the far-right parties across Europe while a majority of people were concerned by the threat it posed. But there is no such reaction today.
Austria's newly-elected populist Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz has unfortunately demonstrated that he cannot learn lessons from past mistakes. As the chair of the ÖVP, he preferred to partner with the FPÖ although it could have been avoided through a coalition with the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ).
The Eurosceptic FPÖ ran an election campaign dominated by racist slogans that disregard all EU values and it currently poses one of the biggest threats to the 28-nation bloc.
In the new cabinet, it has secured six out of the total 14 ministries, including the interior, foreign and defense ministry. In addition, the FPÖ Chair Heinz-Christian Strache has become deputy prime minister.
FPÖ Secretary-General Herbert Kickl will become the interior minister and member Mario Kunasek will become the defense minister. The FPÖ will also take charge of the transportation, social affairs, health and foreign ministries. Additionally, the Ministry of Finance Undersecretary will also be in the FPÖ's control.
Given the current lineup, it would not be wrong to argue that the ÖVP Chair Kurz is now the prime minister of a strong FPÖ cabinet. But it is alarming how the EU has remained a mere spectator to the rise of far-right and the center parties' efforts to boost votes by using the populist slogans.
Trusting a Eurosceptic party with the key ministries of an EU country is nothing short of a political scandal. The far-right Austrian politicians, who obtained the right to represent Austria by receiving votes with their discourses and slogans against refugees, Muslims, Turks and all the other people who are not ethnically Austrian, now have an opportunity to undermine the EU from the inside.
Also everyone knows what issues these politicians will focus on. The program of the new Austrian government does also bear the signature of the far-right and unfortunately, Kurz also converges with them on these points.
Understandably, Turkey's EU candidacy constitutes an important problem for Austria and the coalition members are seemingly ready to campaign against Muslims and Turkey. May God bestow them with some commonsense.
Turkey has given the required answer to the unfortunate expression within the new Austrian government that urges searching for alliances in the EU and cutting EU membership negotiations with Turkey.
In relation to this issue, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, "The unfortunate and shortsighted statements regarding Turkey in the program of the new government of Austria confirm that concerns are justified about the political movement which takes discrimination and alienation as its basis. Instead of looking for allies against global challenges, stating that allies will be sought to completely disregard the legitimate rights of our country is also against political and diplomatic customs. These statements are pushing the boundaries of losing the friendship of Turkey. Once tried to be put in effect, they will receive the appropriate response."
The statement clearly expresses the situation. As a matter of fact, the European Democrats should also have issued a similar statement since the far-right names occupying the significant ministries of an EU country pose a threat to the EU above all.
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