Sunday, 21 May 2017
Could Germany's next problem be an Austrian?
The young fella above is, at 30, Austria's foreign minister, the new leader of the ÖVP and mooted as the country's next chancellor after October's snap election. Sebastian Kurz could also face down his German opposite number - whether Merkel or Martin Schulz - after Germany's September federal elections. The architect of blocking the Balkans migrant route by ignoring the EU and Germany and stitching up a deal with Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, Kurz is also a fierce critic of Merkel's migrant policies.
The ÖVP is the traditional centre-right party in which farmers, burghers and family / craft business owners found a home. Since the war it has a long history of governing in coalition with a Blairite, soft left SPÖ - but as elsewhere in Europe, the two are in trouble. The hard right FPÖ, home to horny handed beer drinkers and drivers of overweight SUVs who resent change and migration, came within a whisker of putting their man Herr Hofer in the presidential palace. Right now they're polling high, and expected to do well in October. That the next Austrian government could be an FPÖ / ÖVP coalition is a distinct possibility; Kurz, the cute face, out in front but Heinz-Christian Strache, the FPÖ's boss, as the iron fist.
A Kurz government would bolster the Vizegrad 4. Hungary's Orban is already a Kurz fan. His success would leave Europe with an ideological block stretching from the Baltic almost to the Adriatic that opposes the policies of the Franco-German pact; Christian, orthodox in belief, small c conservative, with congruent cultural traditions and populations largely intact from cultural enrichment, the old MittelEurope nations could be Germany's worst headache.
Germans oppose squandering their wealth for indolent Mediterranean folk to sleep in the Sun their wine-quieted eyes. The Eastern bloc in contrast grafts hard and multiplies investment. Austria is stuck between Italian idleness and Polish zeal - accustomed to high tax socialist languor but with a northern European work ethos and guilt complex. The coming election may be a leap northwards.