The political sensation of the moment in Austria concerns the appointment of a very young man to the important position of assistant to the new interior minister.
Our Austrian correspondent Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff has compiled a report on all the controversy. The political context can appear confusing, so here’s a preliminary listing of the dramatis personae:
ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party): Center-right, but afraid to confront the issue of Islamization. Desperately trying to maintain position.
SPÖ (Socialist Party of Austria): Typical European Social Democrats. Currently on the wane.
FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria): Right-wing, opposed to mass immigration. Currently on the rise.
BZÖ (Alliance for the Future of Austria): Right-wing, also anti-immigration. Founded by Jorg Haider.
Die Grünen: The Greens. Not really a player, but thrown in for completeness’ sake.
Shakeup in the ÖVP
Major happenings in Austria. I was initially speechless, but… read on.
Ten days ago Josef Pröll (43), the vice-chancellor, minister of finance and ÖVP party leader, was forced to retire from his post for reasons of health. The result was a new ÖVP leader, current foreign minister Michael Spindelegger, who decided on a major ÖVP cabinet reshuffle.
Interior minister Maria Fekter, an integration hardliner, will take over the ministry of finance, and Johanna Mikl-Leitner will become the new interior minister. She is said to be as tough as Fekter. The big scandal, however, is the state secretary to support Mikl-Leitner: 24-year-old Sebastian Kurz, a law student (a former student of mine), whose role will be to act as the liberal watchdog to soften Mikl-Leitner’s positions.
The online forums are awash with outrage regarding Kurz: He is too young, has not finished his education, and has no idea about integration matters. 99.9% of all commenters in the forums are highly negative regarding ÖVP, look forward to voting for the FPÖ, and some even say they are sad that they voted for ÖVP in previous elections.
ÖVP currently hovers around 20% in polls, while FPÖ is at 26%, SPÖ at 27%.
I know Sebastian personally. He is a hard-working young man.
What I find despicable is not that he took on the post, but rather that Mr. Spindelegger hands an important political post to a 24-year-old without any experience. How can someone believe that a young man, actually a child, can solve problems which include culture-enrichers and Islam? It is simply baffling. I feel sorry for Sebastian. And I am angry at Mr. Spindelegger.
I cannot wait for the next election results. They will be disastrous for ÖVP. They deserve no less.
In addition, critics, myself included, contend that the post of state secretary — in effect secretary to the minister — pays a whopping €14,000 per month with a full cabinet, a chauffeur, and other perks. This is simply too high a salary for a political apprentice with no higher education.
Kurz’ supporters say “Give him a chance.” I say that this salary is way too high to “give him a chance”. This is, after all, taxpayers’ money. What a slap in the face for those hard-working people, the few that are left in the squeezed middle class.
This is a huge challenge for me and all of us. A firm command of the German language is the basic necessity for good integration. This must be expanded. I particularly address children and young adults in this regard.
It is easy for [FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian] Strache to talk the talk, but in truth, most of those he puts down are Austrian citizens!
My first plans are to meet with NGOs, talk to experts, and listen to their ideas. We must improve integration because what would happen if social life doesn’t work is evident in many European cities.
A lack of German skills leads to parallel societies. I want to prevent that. I want to make a contribution so that the number of those speaking good German rises. It is important to me that we have a peaceful society.
I am in charge of integration, for those people who have a residence permit or already have Austrian citizenship. Questions of immigration should be addressed neither with daydreams nor with hate speech.
During the Vienna local elections [in fall 2010] I demanded that imams preach in German only. I am not in favor of prohibiting [the preaching in another language], but I still believe imams should preach in German.
This interview does not bode well for the future. It shows nothing new, just more of the same.
There’s more information at The Austrian Times (in English):