The Berlin-Vienna axis

European leaders were taken by surprise when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz formed an alliance. But why did they do it?

editor: REMIX NEWS

Due to the 50 million casualties of World War II it is perhaps understandable that from a historical perspective the cooperation of the German Empire and Austria isn’t really good news for the rest of the European countries, Zoltán Lomnici Jr. writes in a Magyar Idők column.

To spell it out in a way that our liberal friends can also understand: given the historical precedent, all suspicions and precautions are justified upon seeing a “Germanic coming together”. Even looking back at the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938 (the so-called “Anschluss”) was only opposed at a referendum by 0.27 percent of Austrians.

In light of such precedents it is little wonder that there is widespread political sensitivity in Europe upon perceiving any kind of cooperation attempts along the Berlin-Vienna axis. This cooperation along well-defined projects has so far been absent. During the leadership of (former Austrian Chancellors) Werner Faymann and Christian Kern Austria kept its distance from Germany.

The fact that just before the Salzburg informal EU summit Merkel and Kurz joined forces came as a huge surprise, particularly because the Austrian Chancellor has so far been supportive of the Visegrád Group and Hungary’s position (mainly) on migration.

Even as recently as June, Kurz, at a joint press conference with Merkel’s main challenger, Horst Seehofer supported Italian minister of interior Matteo Salvini’s plan for joint Austrian-German-Italian action against terrorism and illegal immigration.

Several explanations have been suggested for Kurz’s change of heart, but the most likely scenario is that he received word from Berlin and as the obedient younger sibling felt obliged to comply. As the Hungarian Prime Minister said recently: the likeable young Austrian suddenly became a turncoat.

Let us, however, be optimistic and look at this as a prelude to the EU election campaign in support of Manfred Weber and of Angela Merkel, who has barely recovered from her domestic political troubles. This may explain Kurz’s lack of political character, but we all know that voters usually sanction such behavior. 


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