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Sebastian Kurz, the wonder man of Austrian politics, quits: ‘Enthusiasm waned’

Sebastian Kurz, the wonder man of Austrian politics, quits: ‘Enthusiasm waned’

A lightning career, short but sweet

Born and raised in a working-class neighborhood in Vienna, Kurz was fascinated by politics from a young age. At the age of 23, he interrupted his studies in law to head the youth wing of the conservative ÖVP party. In this position he is in the spotlight so much that the party asked him in 2011 to become Minister of State for Integration. Turning immigrants into Austrians was his project at the time. He still sees immigration as an opportunity for a rapidly aging Austria. In 2015, in the midst of the refugee crisis, he was already seeing things very differently.

In the summer of 2015, when thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from Hungary and Slovenia entered Austria, Kurz was no longer Minister of State for Integration. He has already held the position of Foreign Minister in the SPÖ-ÖVP government for two years.

At 27 years old, he is the youngest senior diplomat in Europe. He makes it clear from the start that the old guard should take him seriously. At his first general assembly at the United Nations, he immediately imposed a “prime time” speaking time. He is the host at the table when his colleagues from Russia and the United States, Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry, conclude the nuclear deal with Iran in Vienna.

His career kicks off with his handling of the refugee crisis. In the summer of 2015, Austria was suddenly ahead of the finish line on the Balkan Road. Residents of the border towns of the Alpine country don’t know what hit them when thousands of refugees marched on their way to Germany.

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While Angela Merkel says “we have trampled,” Sebastian Kurz was the first to criticize this view. He soon sensed that the growing underground stream of citizens feared the consequences of the new immigration flow on the welfare state.

Without including Merkel, Kurz invited the former Habsburg states on the Balkan Route to a special summit in Vienna. Moments later, the border was closed.