December 8, 2022
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Austria goes right

In 2016, there was a public concern for far-right policies and parties taking over the United States and the imminent European elections in 2017. Between the U.S. presidential elections, the replacement of David Cameron in the United Kingdom and brewing elections in France, the world was on the edge of its seat in fear that the three top players in foreign policy would revert to highly discriminatory policies, especially those having to do with immigration. Some of those policies have been put into practice in the United States in the form of travel bans and shaky diplomatic ties.

A year later, far-right ideas are more normalized, proof being that the Austrian election went reasonably undetected, resulting in a sharp right turn when 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz — foreign minister and party leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party — won the election and is now next in line to be chancellor of Austria.

Kurz has adopted a lot of immigration ideals traditional to the Freedom Party (FPÖ), a far-right political party that was originally created as a protest party but lost mainstream support in the early 2000s. Essentially, what the FPÖ wanted to accomplish — and what Kurz might accomplish for them — is to reverse a 1912 law that recognizes Islam as an official religion and shifts the country’s tolerant attitude and policies toward Muslims to a more hostile tone.

Austria was among one of the most welcoming countries toward refugees two years ago. The public opinion on the matter seems to be changing, the result being Kurz’s election.

The FPӦ came in second place in the election with 26.9 percent, meaning that any anti-Muslim or immigration policy that Kurz, the People’s Party and the FPӦ would want to pass could easily come to fruition.

Late in July, the European Court of Justice ruled that Austria and Slovenia had the right to deport asylum seekers if Austria and Slovenia were not the first EU country refugees came to. For example, if a refugee entered Europe in Croatia but applies for asylum in Austria, they could get deported back to Croatia.

This law gives Kurz and his backing a legal precedent to deport Afghans and Syrians and creates more hostility toward refugees trying to enter the country. Considering the newfound public fear of mass migration and refugeesa fear Kurz used very much to his advantageit is entirely possible that one of the leading allies toward refugees in Europe could backtrack and leave the ever-increasing population of migrants high and dry.

Isabella Grullón Paz can be reached at or via Twitter: @isagp23