Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has become Austria’s new chancellor after fellow Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) member Sebastian Kurz stepped down amid a corruption probe to save the ruling coalition with the Greens.
The swearing-in ceremony took place at the office of Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen in the capital Vienna on Monday.
During the brief event, Schallenberg pledged to faithfully observe the country’s constitution and execute his duties as chancellor to the best of his knowledge and abilities. He was then congratulated by the president on his new role.
Schallenberg would be “of great use” to Austria as the chancellor due to his vast diplomatic experience and ability to bring “the most contradicting positions to a common ground,” Van der Bellen insisted.
Former Austrian Ambassador to France Michael Linhart has also been confirmed as the new foreign minister during the ceremony.
Heute habe ich Alexander #Schallenberg als #Bundeskanzler & Michael @LinhartBMEIA als #Außenminister angelobt. Ich bin überzeugt davon, dass beide für diese verantwortungsvollen Aufgaben die besten Voraussetzungen mitbringen und freue mich auf eine gute Zusammenarbeit. (vdb) pic.twitter.com/T8W01YWrZU
Schallenberg delivered his first address as chancellor shortly after his swearing-in, promising to do his best to bring stability to the country’s political system, continuing efforts aimed at tackling Covid-19 and boosting the pandemic-stricken economy.
“I will of course work very closely… with Sebastian Kurz,” he insisted. Acting in any other way would’ve been “absurd” as it was Kurz’s leadership that allowed the ÖVP to win two national elections, he added.
The new chancellor also insisted that the corruption accusations against his predecessor were “false” and “at the end of the day it will turn out that there was nothing to them.”
Schallenberg is a career diplomat who worked with the Foreign Ministry for more than two decades and was appointed FM in June 2019. The 52-year-old was recommended for the job by his predecessor and fellow member of the conservative ÖVP party, Sebastian Kurz, who quit the office on Saturday.
Kurz stepped down in order to rescue his party’s ruling coalition with the Greens amid a corruption investigation against him.
The Greens, who entered the coalition on a promise of “clean politics,” insisted that he should resign because of the probe and threatened to initiate a vote of no confidence on Tuesday if it didn’t happen.
The investigators, who raided ÖVP’s offices on Wednesday, suspect the former chancellor and nine other people of illegally using government funds to ensure positive media coverage between 2016 and 2018.
Kurz denied any wrongdoing and promised to fight to clear his name, while becoming ÖVP’s leader in the parliament.
The 35-year-old was Austria’s chancellor from December 2017 to May 2019 before sweeping to power again in January 2020. He has always been a vocal critic of EU’s asylum-seeker policies and made headlines in August by refusing to accept any more refugees fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the takeover by the Taliban.
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