17 Oct 2017
The unelected president of the European Union’s (EU) executive arm has urged the democratically elected Austrian premier to form a “pro-European” government.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker made the comments in a letter to Sebastian Kurz, whose Christian Democrat Austrian People’s Party (OVP) topped the polls with 31.7 per cent of the vote.
The right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) came in second place on 27.4 per cent, above the Social Democrats (SPO) on 26.8 per cent.
Whilst the SPO is pro-EU, the FPO is Eurosceptic, promising to hold a referendum on withdrawing Austria from future EU bailouts and opposing EU migration policy.
Mr. Kurz is expected to form a coalition government with the FPO, which could be hostile to the EU and form alliances with other Eurosceptic governments like Hungary.
Mr. Juncker’s intervention, therefore, could be seen as the EU president pushing Mr. Kurz to go into coalition with the SPO rather than the FPO. He wrote:
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) October 16, 2017
“I would like to warmly congratulate you on your party winning the most votes during the Austrian parliamentary election.
“There will now be challenges Austria and you, yourself will have to face. Soon, Austria will play an outstanding role being the presidency of the council of the European Union.
“Under Austria’s responsibility, a number of important decisions regarding the European Union will have to be made.
“Therefore I wish you great success building a stable and pro-European Government and I look forward to working together in the future.”
In 2000, former OVP leader and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel formed a coalition with the FPO, which infuriated the EU and prompted calls for a boycott.
Mr. Juncker did not go as far this time but has made his opposition to the FPO clear before. In an interview with Le Monde in 2016 he said:
“I do not like them. With these right-wing populists, it is neither possible to debate nor having a dialogue.”