VIENNA – A far-right Austrian party that has entered a government coalition with the conservatives on Saturday ruled out the possibility of a referendum on the country’s European Union membership.
Head of the center-right People’s Party (ÖVP) Sebastian Kurz, who has become Austria’s chancellor at the age of 31, was joined at a press conference by far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache in Vienna just hours after their plans to form a coalition government were approved by the country’s president.
“A vote on leaving the European Union remains explicitly prohibited,” said Strache, the new vice-chancellor.
He said he would defend the EU’s project of peace but continue a campaign to increase the sovereignty of national parliaments so they can challenge Brussels on subjects like Russian sanctions, with which his party disagrees.
Kurz, in turn, reiterated his opinion that the EU’s migrant quota policies required reform, putting his approach in line with the likes of Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, which have also challenged the measures.
“We cannot waste any more time discussion refugee quotes when we know it does not work,” he said.
The conservative was now the youngest head of government in western Europe, while the rise to power of the FPÖ means Austria also became the only western European country to have a far-right faction in government.
Herbert Kickl, the FPÖ’s current secretary-general, is set to become the country’s new interior minister, while Karin Kneissl is due to take over the foreign ministry, a post previously occupied by Kurz.
As well as the Chancellery, the conservatives will assume control of several ministries such as education, women’s affairs, agriculture and European affairs, which is distinct from the foreign ministry.