Up to 6,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Vienna yesterday as Austria's far right was sworn in as part of the Alpine country's new government, rounding off a triumphant year for Europe's nationalists.
People protested outside President Alexander Van der Bellen's office with signs like "we don't want any Nazi pigs" and "Nazis out" as Kurz and his new Cabinet were sworn in, as reported by DPA.
Police cleared a large area around the president's office in central Vienna, keeping several thousand protesters about 100 meters away on a nearby square. Chants could be heard as the new ministers from the Freedom Party (FPOe) and the conservative People's Party (OeVP) crossed the street quietly to the ceremony.
The two parties have pledged to tighten the country's asylum and immigration regulations while maintaining a firm commitment to the European Union.
The FPOe's success made it an outlier in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s when it was led by the late Joerg Haider, who praised Adolf Hitler's employment policies.Now it is one of many anti-establishment parties making electoral gains, capitalizing on voter frustration at mainstream politicians' handling of the economy, security and immigration. Its allies and sister parties this year entered the German parliament and made the French presidential run-off.
Kurz has moved his traditionally centrist party to the right, particularly on the issues of migration and Muslims, but has avoided the inflammatory rhetoric of the Freedom Party, which itself has publicly disassociated itself from decades of covert anti-Semitism, but continues to attract a neo-Nazi fringe.
Political opponents have expressed particular concern that the Freedom Party has control of the important Interior, Defense and Foreign Ministries. Its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, is now vice chancellor.
Kurz served as foreign minister in the outgoing government led by Chancellor Christian Kern, a Social Democrat. He has stressed the importance of a pro-European direction and is expected to continue to take the lead on European issues even though the Freedom Party, which has traditionally been strongly euroskeptic, will have the Foreign Ministry.
Both Kurz's conservatives and the Freedom Party campaigned on the need for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.
A coalition agreement finalized Friday night pledged to bolster the country's police forces with another 2,100 officers, as well as immigration policies that "can be sustained by the population." The agreement also says asylum should only be offered to people "for the duration of their persecution, who really need Austria's help."Other points include ending illegal migration, cutting government bureaucracy, reducing taxes and creating a new national climate and energy strategy.
In the new Cabinet, the Freedom Party has five ministers in addition to Strache and a deputy minister. Along with Kurz as chancellor, the People's Party has seven ministers and one deputy, with responsibilities including the Finance, Economy and Justice Ministries.
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