The opposition party Les Républicains accused Macron of “rolling out the red carpet for the ally of the Austrian extreme right to save [Macron’s] European project”.
It was Kurz’s first bilateral visit since he took office after striking an alliance with the far-right Freedom Party, which holds the key ministries of defense and the interior. The FPO’s leader, Heinz Christian Strache, is now vice-chancellor to Kurz.
Macron acknowledged discomfort over Kurz’s alliance with the FPÖ. “The constitution of his government created concern, and we talked about it openly,” he said.
Aged 31, Kurz is not only the youngest head of government in Europe, but the youngest in the world. Macron, who turned 40 last month, looked almost elderly by comparison.
At their press conference, the leaders emphasized areas of agreement. Both want to promote the emergence of European internet giants, and to ensure that US digital companies pay fair tax on their profits in Europe. Kurz promised to hold “citizens’ consultations” on the future of Europe, as proposed by Macron.
The French president welcomed the “good news” that chancellor Angela Merkel is forming a coalition with the German SPD. As if to reassure Macron, Kurz stressed that “Austria is a pro-European country. We have a pro-European government which would like to play an active and constructive role.”
Austria will assume the revolving presidency of the EU in the second half of 2018, and Macron is eager to ensure that it not scupper his attempts to relaunch the EU, at a time when the union is increasingly divided between eastern and western members.
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