Despite Jewish Concerns, Austria’s Kurz Wants Coalition With Far Right Party With Nazi Past

This decision was expected: Kurz's conservative People's Party and the right-wing Freedom Party both campaigned for tougher immigration controls and a crackdown on radical Islam

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A handout photo made available by the Austrian Peoples Party shows Austrian Foreign Minister and the leader of the Austrian Peoples Party Sebastian Kurz (L) with Heinz-Christian Strache (R), leader of the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party
A handout photo from Austrian Peoples Party shows Austria's next likely chancellor Sebastian Kurz (L) with Heinz-Christian Strache (R), leader of the right-wing Freedom PartyCredit: JAKOB GLASER/AFP

Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz said Tuesday he will try to form a coalition government with the right-wing Freedom Party after winning this month's election, despite concern by the local Jewish community.

Both Kurz's People's Party and the Freedom Party campaigned on the need for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.

Austria's president tasked Kurz on Friday with forming a government. Kurz said that after meetings with all the other parties in parliament he decided to invite the Freedom Party to enter talks on a coalition — a decision that was widely expected.

>> 'Wolf in sheep's clothing': Austrian Jews warn new leader not to work with Nazi-founded party <<

Kurz told reporters that his prospective partner, Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, had shown "a will to bring about change in Austria together."

On Monday, the Jewish community warned Kurtz against the move. "When the nationalist wolf puts on a blue sheep skin it does not change its nature, only its appearance," said Oskar Deutsch, head of Austria's main Jewish association, in an open letter on Facebook to both centrist parties. Blue is the Freedom Party's color.

"If OVP and SPO believe they can tame the wolf, they are deceiving themselves," Deutsch said.

The 31-year-old Kurz is foreign minister in the outgoing government under Chancellor Christian Kern, a center-left Social Democrat. He is on track to become Europe's youngest leader.

Kurz said he will try to form a government by Christmas. His party finished first in the Oct. 15 election, but no party was close to a parliamentary majority on its own.

He said a "basic condition" for the new administration is "a clear pro-European direction."

"Austria can only be strong if we are not just members of the European Union, but also actively help to strengthen the European Union," Kurz said. Austria will hold the 28-nation EU's rotating presidency in the second half of next year.

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