The varnish is peeling off for Kurz

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Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will quickly be honoured in Germany. On May 11, the
Christian Democratic politician (ÖVP) will obtain the Freedom Prize of the Media”, which is awarded by Bavaria’s Weimer Media Group.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will give the induction speech for Kurz. Among the seven earlier recipients are Mikhail Gorbachev, Monaco’s Prince Albert II and, most lately, former EU Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker.

In his political profession, Kurz has repeatedly confirmed himself to be a bridge-builder for Europe, the jury mentioned, whereas explaining its choice to offer him the prize. Kurz, in response to the nominating board, was a communicator of freedom and has championed the rights of smaller EU states.

Indeed, Kurz, who grew to become Austria’s youngest chancellor in 2017 on the age of 31, was
lengthy thought-about a political taking pictures star. German media, particularly, courted him
as a result of he dared to criticise his German party-family colleague, Angela Merkel, on Germany’s refugee coverage.

Kurz preferred to evangelise that he had virtually single-handedly closed the Balkan route for refugees from Syria. He entered workplace with the announcement of what he known as ‘new politics’. To this finish, he additionally reworked the standard ÖVP, which is related in Austria with the colour black, to turquoise.

He pushed again on the facility of his party-strongholds (farmers, enterprise, workers and civil servants) and nearly all of ÖVP-led federal states. Kurz gained the 2017 elections largely resulting from using as a lot as €6 million in unlawful marketing campaign bills. Money flowed from entrepreneurs who later additionally obtained quid professional quos in return for his or her donations, together with authorities posts or modifications to legal guidelines. Austria’s judiciary is now
investigating many of those donations.

His first coalition with the populist right-wing FPÖ resulted in 2019 after a scandal
involving secretly recorded movies of conversations between the then-party chief,
Heinz-Christian Strache, and the alleged niece of a Russian oligarch in Ibiza.

Strache promised the lady a put up and enterprise contracts if she supported him and even
introduced that heads would roll at Austria’s public radio and TV shops.

After Strache was pressured to resign, your complete Kurz-led authorities didn’t survive a confidence vote. A cupboard of consultants took over till new elections had been held within the autumn of 2019. Kurz gained a lot of votes and, in early 2020, for the primary time in Austria’s historical past, entered right into a coalition with the Greens.

The coalition grew to become a mannequin of hope within the EU. But a 12 months in the past, the downfall occurred. The judiciary began investigations into corruption and post-fixing round Kurz, his finance minister and buddy Gernot Blümel and the pinnacle of the state holding firm ÖBAG, Thomas Schmid. Deleted private messages had been reconstructed on confiscated cellphones.

Schmid was discovered to have thanked the Chancellor effusively for the job, saying, “I love my Chancellor. You get everything you want” and “You are family”. At the identical time, the so-called “Ibiza Affair” grew to become recognized by an investigative committee in parliament. The investigation discovered that judicial officers had apparently both warned ÖVP politicians in opposition to home searches or had suggested them on this regard.

Kurz initially reduce an excellent determine throughout the pandemic. He known as for the primary exhausting lockdown within the spring of 2020 and addressed the general public in almost every day TV appearances collectively
with the Green well being minister, Rudolf Anschober. He additionally travelled to Israel a number of instances to study from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about his profitable vaccination program.

But in early 2021, his management throughout the vital vaccine procurement appears to have slipped away. He claimed {that a} senior Viennese official sitting on the EU’s vaccination panel had not knowledgeable him of the chance to purchase extra vaccine that different EU nations left over.

Kurz complained about what he known as ‘bazaar methods’ in Brussels for the acquisition of vaccines, however this additionally needed to put into context with criticism that he had
not taken care of the procurement of COVID vaccines, himself.

He later introduced himself as a fighter for nations with low vaccine allocations, equivalent to
Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. At the EU summit in March, Kurz then vetoed a deliberate
distribution of future vaccine provides as a way to safe extra vaccine doses for Austria.
In doing so, nonetheless, he failed. Kurz was pressured to all of the sudden criticise EU heads of presidency who, in contrast to him, had beforehand procured extra vaccine doses.

Health Minister Anschober, who was stricken with sickness due to the workload, resigned. He was now not match for the job, defined Anschober, whom Kurz had disavowed a number of instances earlier than. He was changed by Wolfgang Mückstein, a basic practitioner.

Kurz’s dealings with the media have lately met with sharp criticism. In the rating of
Reporters with out Borders, Austria has already dropped two locations to 18th place in 2020.
One motive for that is Kurz’s ÖVP lawsuit in opposition to the liberal weekly Falter, which unveiled the enterprise knowledge of his get together in addition to the chancellor’s outsized PR equipment with dozens of message controllers.

It seems like Austria is not going to be promoted within the new rating, which shall be
revealed on April 20, for there may be now loads of disinformation as a weapon that’s tolerated or ordered by Kurz, who lately launched a brand new get together medium, Zur
Sache, which works in opposition to unpopular media with lies and understatements.

The German distinction, due to this fact, negates the truth in Austria. Sebastian Kurz has not
expanded media freedom in Austria, however restricted it by direct message management by way of a bloated pr equipment, the preferential therapy of pro-government media and
most lately by assaults on important media shops.

He is accountable for the truth that the lion’s share of the commercials of state and
state-related businesses are distributed to the tabloid media with the very best circulation in
Austria (final 12 months greater than €100 million), whereas high quality media receives solely slightly
cash – a process recognized from the thus far unchanged state media funding.

On high of that, the Wiener Zeitung, the oldest every day newspaper on this planet, owned by the
Republic, is now threatened with closure. The writer and editor-in-chief of Falter, Armin Thurnher, attacked Kurz head-on within the new concern, saying disinformation, was his new media coverage and that Kurz instantly goes after any media group that he can’t make subservient to him with cash.

Awarding Kurz a prize for combating for media freedom is, due to this fact, greater than
absurd.

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