Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said it is the government’s duty to “protect young girls” from the harmful side-effects of immigration, defending his pledge to ban headscarves in schools for girls under the age of 14.
In an interview with the Financial Times, published Monday, Kurz also said controlling illegal immigration is at least as pivotal as tackling climate change, adding that both issues will be on top of his government’s agenda.
“It is important to protect our environment but it is also important to decide who will live in our country,” he said, adding that better control of immigration is an integral part of protecting cultural identity. He also announced more drastic measures to guarantee national security, such as preventive detention of immigrants suspected of religious extremism.
Kurz leads a governing coalition with the Greens after striking a deal earlier this month. While immigration and cultural identity traditionally are key concerns of Kurz’s conservative People’s Party (ÖVP), the Greens have long demanded a more ambitious strategy to protect the environment.
Kurz said Austria will strive to attain carbon neutrality by 2040.
Reelected in 2019 after his previous coalition government with the right-wing FPÖ collapsed over the so-called Ibiza scandal, Kurz has long championed tougher immigration rules on the national and European level, earning him both support and criticism.
One German NGO earlier this month caused considerable outrage across German and Austrian media when it denounced Kurz, 33, as “Baby Hitler,” after the leader said sea rescue operations in the Mediterranean only encourage more refugees to make the dangerous crossing to Europe and lead to more deaths.