German Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced renewed criticism from the leader of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache, who has once again tried to drum up support through angry and exaggerated rhetoric. EURACTIV Germany reports.
On Wednesday (26 October), Austria celebrates its national day and to mark the occasion, FPÖ leader Strache held a curtain-raiser meeting, in which he added to the rhetoric against Merkel, labelling the chancellor as “the most dangerous woman in Europe”.
He also took aim at her “criminal” refugee policy, claiming that she “gave the go-ahead for the biggest movement of people in centuries”.
Political observers have suggested that Strache has tried to up the ante because the voters he is courting are responding less and less to the issue of refugee policy. The Austrian government, headed up by Christian Kern, is currently dealing with the issue in its own restrictive fashion.
So in order to get people riled up once more, Strache has had to crank up the exaggeration. In his speech, Strache raged against the “uncontrolled influx of migrants alien to our culture who seep into our social welfare system”; he added that the whole situation “makes civil war in the medium-term not unlikely”.
Strache did not mention a so-called “Öxit” directly, another awful-sounding neologism for a country’s potential withdrawal from the EU in the same vein as “Brexit”, but the FPÖ chief did attack the bloc’s foundations and spoke in favour of nationalism.
“Only a state that is truly sovereign can retain its independence,” he claimed. He went on to list the factors that he and his party insist threaten Austrian sovereignty. In his sights were the alleged rubber-stamping of transatlantic free trade agreements and the perceived danger of Islamisation as a result of unchecked mass-immigration.
Strache, who will be hopeful that his party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, will be triumphant in the re-run of Austria’s presidential election, also alleged that the EU is the “handmaiden of corporate interests” and accused Brussels of being “a detached elite that treads on the sovereignty of the member states”.