This Week in the News

Austria Elects Hardliner Sebastian Kurz

The Washington Post reported on October 16:

Austria became the latest European country to take a sharp turn right on Sunday, with the conservative People’s Party riding a hard-line position on immigration to victory in national elections and likely to form a government with a nationalist party that has long advocated for an even tougher stance.

“The result puts the 31-year-old foreign minister and People’s Party leader, Sebastian Kurz, in line to become Austria’s next chancellor after a campaign in which he emphasized the need to strengthen border controls, reduce caps on refugees and slash benefits for newcomers.

“Much of Kurz’s rhetoric echoed positions long held by the Freedom Party, which for decades has anchored the far right of politics in this nation of 8.7 million…

“Freedom Party backers were in a jubilant mood Sunday night, eating schnitzel, dancing to Austrian folk music and waving flags at the party’s election-night celebration. Heinz-Christian Strache, the party leader, said the results proved that ‘our message has reached the mainstream…’

“The elevation of Kurz to chancellor would put another young and charismatic leader at the helm of a European government, after the election of 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron in France.

“Kurz, though ideologically to the right of Macron, modeled much of his campaign after the Frenchman’s. The Austrian politician styled his run for the nation’s highest office as a movement, not a conventional election, and personalized his party, informally renaming it ‘the Sebastian Kurz List.’

“Kritzinger said Kurz’s opponents were flummoxed by how to counteract the charismatic People’s Party leader, who took the reins in the party this year and promptly remade it as his own.

“’From a rhetoric perspective, he’s an absolute talent,’ Kritzinger said. ‘The other parties didn’t know how to deal with him.’”

The Times of Israel commented on October 16:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called to congratulate Sebastian Kurz on his victory in Austria’s elections, according to a statement from his office that made no mention of the success of the far-right Freedom Party.

“On Sunday, the 31-year-old Kurz’s  People’s Party (OeVP) swept to victory with a projected 31.7 percent of the vote, ahead of the Social Democrats (SPOe) at 26.9% and the anti-migrant Freedom Party (FPOe) at 26%, leading to the expectation that Kurz would turn to the far right party as a coalition partner…

“Kurz, for his part, told the prime minister of his interest in boosting Austria’s ties with Israel, the PMO said.

“The statement did not make any mention of the Freedom Party’s expected role as the junior partner in Kurz-led coalition. In 1999, Israel recalled its ambassador after the party, then under Jörg Haider, joined the government.

“The success of the FPOe, which was founded by former Nazis in the 1950s, has created a dilemma for Israel, whose government refuses to meet with members of the party. If senior party member Norbert Hofer were to become foreign minister, as is common for runners-up in Austrian coalition governments, Jerusalem would have to choose between ending its longstanding policy of not interacting with ultra-nationalist parties and boycotting a top diplomat of a friendly country.

Politico wrote on October 18:

“Regardless of whether it joins the next Austrian government, the far-right Freedom Party was the victor in the country’s election last Sunday. Like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the anti-immigration party has built the theater in which the mainstream parties are now performing.

“Sebastian Kurz — the 31-year-old leader of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) — is set to lead a right-leaning coalition that includes the far-right Freedom Party. The last time Austria’s populists won more than a quarter of the vote and played kingmaker, in 1999, the other EU members isolated Vienna through bilateral sanctions. But what shocked EU leaders then is barely causing a stir now.

“In part, this is simply because the inclusion of the far right is not as shocking as it was 20 years ago. Since then, governments across Europe — from Hungary to Italy — have turned rightward and a host of mainstream political leaders have adopted anti-immigrant rhetoric in an effort to keep the political fringes at bay.

“Exclusion is no longer an option. The EU is too busy trying to figure out how to respond to the most blatant challenges to its rule of law and other key values — from self-proclaimed “illiberal” governments in Budapest and Warsaw.

“When it comes to Austria, the other European countries will be watching whether campaign slogans turn into action, particularly when it comes to migration policy.”

Kurz’s rise to power reflects the growing revolt across Europe over a seeming lack in answering the concern for Europe’s traditional values. Europe is turning to younger, charismatic leaders, and that opens the door for the emergence of a very powerful personality who is destined to emerge to lead a totally new kind of European nationalism!

Macron Calls for New Political Heroes

The Independent reported on October 15:

“Emmanuel Macron has said modern democracies need new political heroes and called for an end to the ‘European civil war’.

“The French President said he wanted to ‘renew the European dream and reawaken ambitions for it’ during an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel.

“His comments come days after the fifth round of Brexit talks closed with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, claiming the EU and UK were in a ‘deadlock’ over Britain’s financial contribution.

“Giving his thoughts on modern democracy, Macron said: ‘I am a strong believer that modern political life must rediscover a sense for symbolism.

“‘We need to develop a kind of political heroism. I don’t mean that I want to play the hero. But we need to be amenable once again to creating grand narratives.’

“He went on to call on leaders to work together to achieve ‘sovereignty, unity and democracy’ in Europe.

“‘Let’s put an end to this European civil war, the existence of which we don’t want to admit, and stop constantly looking at whether we are better than our neighbouring country at this or the other thing.’”

Vatican Prepares Forum to Support European Union

Vatican Radio reported on October 14:

“‘Rethinking Europe’ is the title of a high-level Forum of Dialogue which aims to discuss the main challenges of the European Union and the ways the Church can support the European project in a moment in which Europe itself seems to be at a crossroads.

“Organized by COMECE (the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community), in collaboration with the Holy See, the event will take place in the Vatican from 27 to 29 October.

“Presenting the Forum earlier this year, COMECE President Cardinal Reinhard Marx said: ‘Rethinking Europe will be the start of a process of dialogue between the Churches representatives (both bishops and seculars) and the politicians who have political responsibility and take decisions.’

“Participants will include hundreds of high-level Church and EU political representatives, together with other grassroots actors who will meet in a series of workshops and debates ‘in order to facilitate a frank and open discussion between stakeholders of different geographic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds, putting in practice the motto of the EU: Unity in Diversity’.

“The date for the Forum has been chosen to fall on the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Rome.

Pope Francis, who has repeatedly reminded the EU of its role and responsibility towards the world and n citizens and encouraged EU representatives of their commitment to safeguard peace and the dignity of all women and men, will address the participants on Saturday, 28 October.

“Presenting the project for the Forum, COMECE stressed that ‘The main message of the Church is to put the human person back at the heart of the European public policy and the Dialogue of Rome will be a milestone of this process’.”

China Tightens Communism

The Washington Post wrote on October 18:

“For 3½ hours, China’s President Xi Jinping commanded the stage and the nation’s television screens as he set out a far-reaching agenda for the Communist Party, outlining a vision of total control, not only of the nation’s economy and the Internet but also of culture, religion and morals.

The Communist Party already has a hand in just about every aspect of life here. But Xi’s speech Wednesday — opening a five-yearly congress of the party’s top leadership — cast the net even wider.

“His was a vision of a reinvigorated Communist Party, backed by a strong economy and a powerful, modern military taking an even more central role in the affairs of the nation and a more confident role on the world stage.

“‘Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park,’” Xi told more than 2,200 members of the party’s elite, speaking beneath gigantic red drapes and a huge hammer and sickle in the mammoth Great Hall of the People, a monument to Communist authoritarianism, on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square…

“The theme of the congress: that the party should remain true to its original aspiration, hold high the banner of socialism and secure a decisive victory in the battle to build a moderately prosperous society.”

Powerful Hurricane Pummels Ireland

CNBC reported on October 16:

“The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are experiencing some of the most extreme weather the island has seen in decades as the aftermath of Hurricane Ophelia strikes.

“Schools and hospitals are closed, many public transport and aviation services have ceased operations and the army has been sent to shore-up flood defenses in what has been called an “unprecedented storm” by Ireland’s meteorological office.

“Two people were killed in separate incidents when trees fell on their cars — a woman in her fifties in the southeast and a man on the east coast. Another man in his thirties died while trying to clear a fallen tree in an incident involving a chainsaw.

“Over 360,000 homes and businesses were without electricity with another 100,000 outages expected by nightfall, Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board said, describing it as an unprecedented event that would [a]ffect every part of the country for days.”

California Wildfires Prove Historic!

AP reported on October 17:

“The fires that swept through parts of seven counties were the deadliest and most destructive series of blazes in California history. At least 42 people died and 6,000 homes were lost.

“The flames were especially devastating in Sonoma and Napa counties on the northern edge of the Bay Area — a region that has seen housing prices skyrocket in recent years amid a technology industry boom. In San Francisco, an average one-bedroom apartment rents for more than $3,000 a month, and the median home price is about $1.5 million.

“Cities such as Santa Rosa, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, have offered more affordable housing for people willing to endure a longer commute. But that may not be the case anymore…

“An estimated 100,000 people were evacuated at the height of the fires, and about 22,000 remain under evacuation.”

As this report shows, the repercussions will last far past the time when these fires are quenched. Like so many disasters which have occurred in recent weeks, the challenge to survive and rebuild is simply overwhelming.

©2024 Church of the Eternal God