Rift widening between Vienna and Berlin?

One month after the formation of Austria's right-wing conservative government Chancellor Sebastian Kurz visited Angela Merkel on Wednesday. In view of Kurz's criticism of Berlin's refugee policy and his aim of limiting Brussels' power the meeting had been eagerly anticipated. But there's little evidence of conflict, commentators conclude.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Why Merkel is holding her tongue

Berlin's restrained stance vis-à-vis the Austrian government is due to Kurz's conduct during the refugee crisis, Deutschlandfunk believes:

“[Kurz] went against the German chancellor's position back then. But the closure of the Balkan route reduced the number of refugees arriving in Germany. This gave Angela Merkel the political leeway she desperately needed. Kurz is professional enough not to expect a public show of gratitude for this. But nor must he fear any criticism or lecturing. Neither for his opposition to pan-European refugee quotas, nor for his austerity dictates vis-à-vis Brussels, nor even for his alliance with the right-wing populists of the FPÖ. 'I'll be keeping a closer eye on things than usual' was all Angela Merkel had to say on the subject in public.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Visegrád states should follow Kurz's example

The Austrian chancellor is better at getting people to listen to his criticism of the EU than the politicians of the Visegrád states, Lidové noviny comments:

“Kurz wants to work together with Germany but he also wants to push for reforms in the EU that run counter to the German chancellor's policies so far. Including the view that protecting the EU's outer borders should take priority over the mistaken policy of distributing refugees. ... Kurz is displaying good manners in all this. He isn't blaming the Germans, he doesn't describe the EU as ineffective, but focuses on what needs to be changed without the EU collapsing. For the Visegrád states Kurz is a model worth emulating.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Radiant chancellor blots out the FPÖ

Austrian Chancellor Kurz is refusing to give in to coalition partner FPÖ on EU policy, Der Standard observes:

“He himself brought this message to the capitals of the EU with his youthful charisma: his government should be assessed on the basis of the actions of his ministers, and not of the ugly image of an aggressive, xenophobic and divisive party that the FPÖ has had in Europe for years - particularly in the European Parliament. The Freedom Party members are now in the unaccustomed position of having to display good manners if they want to be recognised and taken seriously. ... Added to that Kurz has forced his coalition partner into a straitjacket by assuming responsibility for the entire EU coordination. When in doubt, what he says goes - whatever the FPÖ does.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Salonpopulists driving a wedge through Europe

Merkel and Kurz stand for two very different ideas of Europe, the Berliner Zeitung notes:

“It is to be expected that Kurz and his government will move closer to Eastern European countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. ... Austria is on the lookout for allies that will support a stop to accession negotiations with Turkey. That's as little in Merkel's interest as Austria's goal of weakening Brussels. Differences also become more pronounced regarding refugee and asylum policy. ... What will not wash with either Merkel or the SPD, however, is the renunciation of the idea of European solidarity. Europe will only become more divided with salonpopulists like Sebastian Kurz.”

Kurier (AT) /

Berlin is there for Kurz's taking

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is an eagerly awaited guest in Germany, Kurier is convinced:

“Kurz has become a symbol for the long overdue takeover of a new generation. With Emmanuel Macron, Paris has a new, self-assured player - also in Brussels. Berlin, meanwhile, is now torturing itself into the next unpopular grand coalition. What's more, Kurz will surely score points with his extraordinary communication skills. And last but not least: he has put into words what many Germans thought about the refugee crisis but only a few have dared to say. In 2018 this continues to play a major role in the collective subconscious mind.”