Who is Sebastian Kurz?

The youngest ever foreign minister in a European country, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz is the frontrunner in the race to become the next chancellor of Austria and the anti-immigration millennial is being heavily touted as the likely candidate to win the country’s general election.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Published: October 16, 2017 1:04 pm
Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, head of Austrian People’s Party, speaks during an interview in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, after the closing of the polling stations for the Austrian national elections. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

It belies belief that a man born in 1986 could be the next leader of a prominent European nation. Sebastian Kurz,  31, who is already the youngest foreign minister of  a European country, now looks poised to become the next chancellor of Austria making him the first millennial to lead a European country. His party nearly won the country’s general election this Sunday.

Born in Vienna, Kurz was raised in Meidling. He studied at the conservative Bundesgymnasium, Bundesrealgymnasium and Bundesaufbaugymnasium Erlgasse school in Vienna. He then went on to serve his compulsory military service.

The will to enter active politics and success thereof came at a young age to Kurz. He was elected as the chairman of Austrian People’s Party’s youth wing in 2009 and during 2010-11 he also served on the Vienna city council. In April 2011, Kurz was made the State Secretary for Integration. This was also the year he left his law studies at the University of Vienna for a full-time career in politics.

A couple of years later, Kurz emerged as the star performer in the 2013 general election. He was elected to the Austrian Parliament with the maximum amount of direct votes to any candidate. He took the position of Austria’s foreign minister and at his request, his portfolio also absorbed social integration matters. He was sworn in as the youngest minister in the history of Austrian republic and the youngest foreign minister in Europe.

Kurz has shown Austria’s continuous support to the EU and for Austria’s membership to the association of countries. Also, he hosted the initial round of talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in 2014. He also chaired the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers until May 2014, during his first year in office as foreign minister.

In May that year, he invited 30 foreign ministers as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to discuss solutions to the Ukranian crisis. In the end of 2014, he co-chaired of European People’s Party Foreign Ministers Meeting with Elmar Brok.

Showing his anti-immigration and border control stance, Kurz, in 2015, called greater control on EU external borders. His ramped up actions against immigrants came in the aftermath of the refugee crisis in Europe. The same year, he also proposed an Islamgesetz (Islam Law) that banned foreign funding of mosques, payment of imam wages and also put a regulated version of the Quran for use in the country. The law was passed by the parliament, though without the regulated Quran.

In the run-up to elections, he made appeals to conservative voters and promises to close migrant routes, limit benefit payment to refugees, cancel immigrant benefits till an individual has lived in the country for at least five years and many more.

Kurz was appointed as acting chief of the Austrian People’s Party after Reinhold Mitterlehner gave up the party chief’s position in 2017 and then formally elected as chairman. The young leader won the support of 98.7 per cent of electors from the party.

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