The Austrian Greens, well acclimated to the hard right

By Jean-Baptiste Chastand

Posted today at 5:00 a.m.

The farm is located in one of those Austrian postcard landscapes where everything exudes opulence and order. The prairie grass is green and well trimmed. The houses are oversized and their typical wooden cladding is in perfect condition. The gleaming sedans glide softly over the pristine asphalt, while church bells ring from mountain to mountain, echoing those of cows just descended from the pasture.

In the middle of this bucolic fresco, the solid building by Kaspanaze Simma, in Andelsbuch, in Vorarlberg, almost acts as a shack. This proudly organic peasant – it’s plastered on the front of his farm – receives muddy boots on his feet and beret on his head. At 67, this father of five takes care with his wife of “5 or 6 cows” and of « 8 hectares », without any mechanical means other than his crumbling tractor. He has no cell phone, no computer, no car, has not been vaccinated and has serious reservations about abortion. “I am a follower of the subsistence economy”, explains the farmer in his German mixed with the dialect typical of western Austria.

A laboratory of political ecology

It’s hard to believe that the one who receives us in his traditional living room, with wooden furniture, a statue of the Virgin and a large cast-iron stove, is one of the co-founders of the environmentalist party currently the most powerful in Europe: the Austrian Greens. Since 2017, an environmentalist, Alexander Van der Bellen, has been the first Green Federal President in the country’s history. As for the post of vice-chancellor, the number 2 of the government, it has been occupied, since 2020, by another Green, Werner Kogler, to which are added four environmental ministers.

Farmer Kaspanaze Simma owns a farm in Andelsbuch, Vorarlberg.  This supporter of degrowth, co-founder of the Austrian Green Party, shares the views of the conservatives on immigration.

This configuration has a price: an unprecedented coalition with the very young and very conservative number one in the government, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. A big slayer of immigration, the latter is the most important and popular politician in the country. This Wunderkind (“Child prodigy”) of the Austrian hard right first came to power in 2017, without even having finished his studies. He became chancellor at the age of 31, at the head of a coalition associating the conservatives (ÖVP, Austrian People’s Party) with the extreme right (FPÖ, Austrian Freedom Party).

A year earlier, the FPÖ narrowly failed to take the presidency by surfing on the migrant crisis. In 2019, after two years during which many worried that Austria would slip into Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, this alliance exploded following a gigantic corruption scandal within the FPÖ, forcing the young chancellor to call new elections.

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