The Austrian far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) will work to rescind anti-Russian sanctions as part of the new government, its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, said. He added that ending the sanctions would benefit the whole of Europe. Strache listed the lifting of the sanctions the EU imposed against Russia among other goals his party would like to achieve as part of the newly formed Austrian government, adding that it would defend its position at the EU level as well. The FPÖ leader also said that his party could potentially act as a mediator between Europe and Russia and help the two sides find a solution that would serve the interests of both. Strache said he would seek allies among other European political forces to secure a majority support for lifting the sanctions. He admitted, however, that should such a majority fail to coalesce, his party would follow the common European position as required under the principle of democracy. Kurz, on the other hand, said that even with the FPÖ in government, Austria’s policy on the anti-Russian sanctions would not change.

In December 2016, the FPÖ signed a five-year cooperation and coordination agreement with the ruling Russian party, United Russia. 


The FPÖ will certainly not back down from its anti-sanctions stance once in government. Neither of the parties of the center, conservatives, and social democrats, can be expected to counteract these efforts, given that they have also proposed a slow dismantling of the sanctions’ regime, citing pragmatic economic and foreign policy reasons. The FPÖ’s participation in the federal government would most certainly shift Austrian politics to an even more pro-Kremlin and sanctions-critical “neutral” position. And this position has its supporters in Eastern Europe. Both ÖVP and the Freedom Party are “flirting” with the Visegrad-Group. The new Austrian government will not necessarily push for a quick and instant change in European policies toward Russia, but Strache can definitely strengthen the club of sanctions critics in Europe.

Main Figures in the new government

  1. Sebastian Kurz (OVP), Chancellor
  2. Heinz-Christian Strache (FPO), Vice-Chancellor. He's keen on defending the middle class. He has called for "zero immigration" and wants to ban political Islam.
  3. Karin Kneissl (FPO Representative), Foreign Ministry. She has never been a member of the FPO
  4. Herbert Kickl (FPO), Interior Ministry. The Freedom Party's general secretary is seen as its mastermind and powerbroker who wields influence in all party matters.
  5. Mario Kunasek (FPO), Defense Ministry
  6. Hartwig Loeger (OVP), Finance Ministry
  7. Gernot Bluemel (OVP), Chancellery Ministry

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