EU’s Tusk Tells New Austrian Government to Play ‘Pro-Europe’ Role

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Flag of the European Union Photo: AFP

European Union President Donald Tusk on Monday warned Austria’s new chancellor he expected the country to “continue to play a constructive and pro-European role,” as the far right Freedom Party was sworn in as part of the government.

The Freedom Party (FPOe), coalition partners with the conservative People’s Party (OeVP) of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, has pledged to stop illegal immigration, cut taxes and resist E.U. centralisation.

Austria will hold the E.U.’s rotating presidency in the second half of next year, and in a letter congratulating Mr. Kurz on his election, Mr. Tusk warned that Brussels expected Vienna to stick by its commitments to the bloc.

“I trust that the Austrian government will continue to play a constructive and pro-European role in the European Union,” Mr. Tusk wrote.

“This is especially important at a time when the European Council is engaging more directly on politically sensitive issues in the context of the Leaders’ Agenda.”

The new government unveiled a policy platform on Saturday that “commits to Europe” but also pledges to use the Austrian E.U. presidency to “take a leading role in correcting some of the erroneous developments” of the bloc.

It also plans a summit on the contentious issue of immigration as part of its presidency.

The U.N. rights chief said Monday that far-right tilt of Austria’s new coalition government marked a “dangerous development,” and cautioned against “the peddling of fear” in European politics.

“I am very worried,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told AFP in an interview, cautioning that Kurz’s decision to take hard-right positions on things like immigration to win support marked “a dangerous development… in the political life of Europe.”

The issue of how to deal with migrants arriving in the E.U. has proven enormously divisive, with eastern European countries highly resistant to compulsory quotas for how many they should host.