Austria's Sebastian Kurz agrees coalition deal to bring far-right into government

Austria's Sebastian Kurz agrees coalition deal to bring far-right into government

Leader of the center-right People's Party and upcoming chancellor Sebastian Kurz met with President Alexander Van der Bellen on Thursday to discuss the current state of talks between his party and the right-wing Freedom Party.

The last time the FPOe entered government was in 2000 under Joerg Haider, its controversial leader at the time who has since died, in a move which saw Austria briefly ostracised within the European Union.

Mr Kurz's conservative Austrian People's Party won in country's election on 15 October but without an overall majority.

Austrian conservative party leader Sebastian Kurz reached a coalition deal with the anti-immigration Freedom party (FPO) on Friday, paving the way for Austria to become the only western European country with a far-right party in government.

Further details include that the Freedom Party will take over the defence and interior ministries, thus giving them control of both intelligence-related ministries.

Mr Kurz, 31, will be the youngest leader in Europe. 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. The FPO came third with 26% of the vote.

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Mr Van der Bellen, who has the right to reject ministers, has said a new government could be sworn in early next week if everything went to plan.

Mr Kurz, known as "wunderwuzzi" or "whizz-kid", added: "And first and foremost we want to increase security in our country, including by combating illegal immigration".

Unlike France's National Front, the FPO has backed away from calling for a referendum on leaving the European Union, but Mr Kurz has still secured a guarantee that there will be no Brexit-style referendum in Austria, a person familiar with the talks said.

"Our aims are quite clear".

Anti-establishment parties have made large electoral gains in Europe in recent years, capitalising on voter dissatisfaction with mainstream parties' handling of the economy, security and immigration.

Mr Strache and Mr Kurz have pledged to restrict new arrivals' access to many social services for their first five years in the country, and to provide recognised refugees with only a "light" version of regular benefits for five years. "We want to ease the tax burden for people, we want to strengthen our economy, which will bolster our social system", Mr Kurz said late on Friday. A seasoned diplomat, Ms Karin Kneissl, close to the FPO but not a member, will be foreign minister, media reports said.

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