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Far-right Party Officially Part of Austrian Government

  • VOA News

Leader of the Austrian People's Party, OVP, Sebastian Kurz and Heinz-Christian Strache, chairman of the right-wing Freedom Party, FPO, from left, talk during a joint news conference after forming a new coalition government in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 16, 2017.

Austria’s Conservative People’s Party (OVP) reached a coalition deal Saturday with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), which takes a hard line on immigration.

The deal makes Austria the only western European country with a far-right group in government.

Austrian conservatives led by Sebastian Kurz and FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache said in a joint statement this was a "turquoise-blue agreement," referring to each group's political colors.

“We want to reduce the burden on taxpayers ... and above all we want to ensure greater security in our country, including through the fight against illegal immigration,” Kurz said. The 31-year-old will be Austria's new chancellor and will become the youngest head of government in the world. Strache will be vice-chancellor.

The coalition government will be sworn in Monday, according to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen's office.

More than a million refugees and other migrants arrived in Europe in 2015.

Austria reportedly opened its doors to more than 1 percent of those seeking asylum - one of the highest rates in the European Union. Both parties now are pledging to prevent a repeat of that influx.

According to the BBC, no details have been given about the new program, although the Freedom Party is expected to take the leadership on several ministerial roles.

In November, Reuters reported on an upcoming coalition that would focus on a commitment to the European Union, budget discipline, and cuts in migrants' welfare benefits as basic policies.

Strache and Kurz are expected to restrict new arrivals’ access to many social services.

The agreement comes two months after a parliamentary election that was dominated by Europe's migration crisis. It also ends about a decade of political opposition for the FPO, which last entered government in 2000.

Austrian news agency APA first reported the coalition and a source, familiar with the talks, confirmed the deal shortly thereafter.

Kurz's party won the October 15 election. He ran on a hard line approach to immigration that often overlapped with the Freedom Party's. Kurz has promised to bring change to Austrian politics even though he has been leading a party that has been in power in different coalitions for the past 30 years.

The FPO came in third with 26 percent of the vote.