IT WAS all smiles this week as Austria assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, one of the club’s law-making bodies. But behind the scenes Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s young chancellor, provokes knotted brows. Mr Kurz’s political identity, more than that of most other European leaders, is bound up with illegal immigration. Fans say his tough line, honed as foreign minister during the 2015-16 refugee crisis, blunts the appeal of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), the junior coalition partner to his centre-right People’s Party. Foes say his shift towards harshness makes it hard to tell the difference between moderates and extremists. “Kurz is on a dangerous course,” said Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, this week.
In office for barely six months, Mr Kurz has made his share of enemies. Some detect a whiff of demagoguery. There have been mis-steps: a meeting with the Bavarian government, which raised eyebrows in Berlin; Mr Kurz’s call for a European…Continue reading