Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s populist swipes at Brussels in the run-up to the EU election reap opposition scorn, but maybe a few votes, too
Part of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s (ÖVP) much-touted political genius is his ability to appear statesman-like next to his former coalition partners in the Freedom Party (FPÖ), while simultaneously mimicking their policy positions and rhetoric.
With EU elections only a week away, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) scooped up a few new FPÖ talking points, such as criticizing EU “overregulation” and “paternalism.” Critics see a cynical push to garner votes from a man – and a party – who has been staunchly pro-EU, if favoring reform.
While the people “demand from the EU answers to big questions like security, the protection of outer borders and climate change,” Kurz told APA May 12, Brussels should stop telling people how to live. “No one needs EU guidelines for the preparation of schnitzel and French fries,” he said. He also evocatively complained of a “bureaucracy corset”.
“The ÖVP and the Freedom Party can no longer be distinguished,” said SPÖ Vice Chairman Jörg Leichtfried in response, adding that Kurz’s complaints are his own doing, since as chancellor he is part of the European Council. NEOs leader Beate Meinl-Reisinger chimed in that Kurz, “in the fight for votes,” had finally taken an FPÖ anti-European line.
Even Harald Vilimsky, the FPÖ’s own lead candidate, wryly agreed: “What he is saying now is what I have been saying for years. That makes me happy.”
Whether the tactic will work in the new election campaign remains to be seen.