Austria’s Kurz Praises Green Pact as Blueprint for Germany

Chad Thomas and Boris Groendahl
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Austria’s Kurz Praises Green Pact as Blueprint for Germany

(Bloomberg) -- Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz expects the German Christian Democrats to follow his lead and forge a coalition with the Greens in Europe’s largest nation.

Kurz, a 33 year-old conservative who teamed up with the Greens in Austria three weeks ago, said in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he hopes the era of “grand coalitions” between mainstream conservatives and Social Democrat parties was over in Europe. Instead he saw new constellations like the one in Austria emerging.

“I’m almost ready to bet that there can be a similar government in Germany after the next election,” Kurz told Bloomberg on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. “I’m skeptical of those ‘grand coalitions,’ which had their reason after World War II but just became a mutual blockade in recent years.”

Four years after he leaped to prominence by embracing the backlash against immigration and two years after striking a now-failed deal to govern with nationalists, Kurz is now trying to set a very different precedent. While some conservatives complain about the rise of the Greens on the back of massive climate protests, the tie-up in Vienna could offer a template for other European nations struggling to forge governments in an increasingly splintered political spectrum.

The Kurz administration promises climate-neutrality by 2040, while sticking to conservative budget policies, a restrictive line on immigration, and tough security rules. There is no reason to stop producing budget surpluses despite climate investments and a slowing economy, he said.

“We tried very consciously not to bargain each other into the ground for a minimal compromise where nothing is left over, but we defined policy areas where the Greens are in the lead -- like the fight against climate change -- and areas where we’re setting the tone, like financial and tax policies, but also security and migration.”

Austria is dependent on the auto industry adapting successfully to ever stricter environmental regulations, said Kurz. About a third of the country’s annual exports go to Germany, much of it supplies for the northern neighbor’s car manufacturers.

“It’s our goal that European carmakers manage the transformation and are as successful with electric cars as they are with the combustion engine,” he said, acknowledging that he’s being driven around in a diesel-fueled BMW AG sedan. “I’m optimistic that this will succeed, and we’ll contribute to that. Many people are dependent on cars, the car won’t be replaceable.”

(Updates with additional quotes.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Chad Thomas in Davos, Switzerland at cthomas16@bloomberg.net;Boris Groendahl in Vienna at bgroendahl@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Raymond Colitt

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