“The battle against anti-Semitism and our policy of zero tolerance against all anti-Semitic tendencies is very important to me,” Austria’s newly elected leader Sebastian Kurz stated.
Austria’s newly elected leader, Sebastian Kurz, has vowed a zero tolerance policy on anti-Semitism in his governing coalition, seeking to quell fears over a right-wing government that could include a far-right party with Nazi sympathies.
“The battle against anti-Semitism and our policy of zero tolerance against all anti-Semitic tendencies is very important to me,” Kurz told the Israel Hayom daily. “It is a clear precondition for the formation of any coalition under my leadership.”
“I have always been very clear that we—and that very much includes the new Austrian generation—shall never forget the Holocaust and the atrocities committed during World War II,” Kurz said. “Austria has to face up to its own history, and that includes the dark sides of it.”
Kurz’s People’s Party won 31 percent of the vote Sunday, with the populist far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) coming in third with 26 percent. Reports suggest Kurz is in talks with FPÖ about forming a governing coalition.
The far-right party is “still full of xenophobes and racists and is, mildly put, very ambiguous toward Austria’s Nazi past,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said in a statement this week following the election.
For his part, Kurz expressed interest in deepening relations with Israel as chancellor.
Founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s, the Freedom Party of Austria is led by Heinz-Christian Strache, political heir of former party head Jörg Haider, who was notorious for his anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi opinions. When the party joined the Austrian government in 2000, Israel recalled its ambassador in a diplomatic crisis that continued until 2003.
Yet in recent years, the party has attempted to soften its image, with Strache visiting the Jewish state in 2016.