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(BERLIN) — On Feb. 20, President Donald Trump will host the Austrian chancellor in the White House. So, who is Sebastian Kurz and what is there to know about him?
At just 32 years old, Sebastian Kurz is Europe’s youngest head of state and leads the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP).
After running a campaign that adopted hard-line positions on immigration, he took office in December 2017, entering into a governing coalition with the nationalist, anti-migration Freedom Party, originally founded by former Nazis in the 1950s.
Despite his youth, Kurz is no stranger to politics. His political career began early when, as a teen, he joined the youth wing of the ÖVP and eventually became its leader. In 2013, he became the world’s youngest serving foreign minister at age 27.
As chancellor, Kurz maintains a pro-EU stance while emphasizing preserving Austria’s traditions and cracking down on illegal immigration.
A hard-line stance on immigration
Kurz has ruffled feathers for his anti-immigration policies, which critics say are helping to push Europe farther to the right and pandering to the populist agenda espoused by his coalition partner, the Freedom Party.
He has opposed refugee resettlement, instated a burqa ban and been an active critic of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to let nearly a million refugees into Germany in 2015.
He helped organize the shutdown of the overland Balkan route, which many migrants from the Middle East used to enter Europe. In November, Austria joined Hungary in refusing to sign a UN migration pact approved by most countries, drawing criticism from the European Commission.
He’s a Trump foreign policy fan
On Sunday, before his trip to the White House, Kurz said in an interview with Austrian paper Die Presse that the president “is running, in part, a very active and also very successful foreign policy.”
Although he disagrees with Trump on trade and his handling of Iran, Kurz praised the U.S. president for his support of Israel and efforts to secure peace on the Korean peninsula.
The outspoken, Trump-appointed U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, called Kurz a “rockstar” in an interview for the conservative news site Breitbart in July. In the same interview, Grenell said he wanted to “empower” European conservatives — a statement that caused sharp backlash on both sides of the Atlantic for politicizing diplomacy.
The two leaders will meet for a private conversation on Wednesday where, according to a White House statement, they will “look to address both global conflicts and those in the European neighborhood, promote economic prosperity, and strengthen energy security.”
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