Austria gets new leader after graft claims

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Alexander Schallenberg, a long-time diplomat, has been sworn in as chancellor of Austria two days after Sebastian Kurz resigned in the face of a corruption inquiry that shook the ruling coalition.

President Alexander Van der Bellen, who presided over the ceremony, said: "We all expect that the government will now go back to work and move things forward together."

Schallenberg, 52, moves to the chancellery after having held the post of foreign minister since 2019.

He is the son of a diplomat and grew up in India, Spain and France.

"Together with Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, I will now do everything in my power to bridge the gaps that have arisen," Schallenberg said in his first statement as chancellor.

The task now is to implement the recently negotiated agreements on a budget and a climate tax model.

Austria's political turmoil began last week when it was announced that 35-year-old Kurz and several others were under investigation on allegations of misuse of public funds.

Kurz's decision to quit prevented the collapse of the governing coalition between his conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP) and the Greens.

The Greens had threatened to pull out of the coalition if Kurz stayed on as chancellor.

Kogler, who is also the Green Party leader, expressed satisfaction with the personnel changes at the top of the government.

"I assume that the chances are now very good again," he said about the continuation of the coalition until the next regular election in 2024.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Schallenberg on Twitter.

"I look forward to further successful co-operation for Austria and the European Union and hope for a successful partnership for the tasks ahead," she wrote on Monday.

Schallenberg and Kurz worked together for years.

The new chancellor takes a restrictive a stance on migration issues just as his predecessor and has sometimes echoed Kurz' anti-EU notes.

"I will of course work very closely with him," Schallenberg said about Kurz.

Kurz is under investigation over accusations government money was used to pay for positive media coverage while he was serving as foreign minister in 2016.

Anti-corruption investigators searched the offices of Kurz, his OVP party, the Finance Ministry and a media house on Wednesday.

The former chancellor denies any wrongdoing but bowed to political pressure and resigned on Saturday evening.

He asked Van der Bellen to name Schallenberg as his replacement.

Kurz, however, wants to remain OVP leader and move to parliament as parliamentary group leader.

The opposition criticised this move, saying he will remain an extremely influential political figure.

Career diplomat Michael Linhart, 63, is the new foreign minister.

He most recently served as ambassador in Paris.

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