Wednesday

4th May 2016

Focus

PR man heads Austria's Freedom Party election list

  • Austrian flags: Vlimsky said black African, Turkish and Arab people are 'kulturfern' (Photo: Dmitry Shakin)

A 47-year-old PR consultant has taken over at the top of the EU election list for Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) after his predecessor, Andreas Moelzer, stepped down over racist remarks.

Harald Vilimsky, who is a confidante of FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache, wants to focus on national issues but does not advocate Austria's withdrawal from the EU.

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While he is clearly against Turkish membership of the EU and has socially conservative views (he does not think same-sex couples should be able to adopt children), one of his main bugbears as far as the EU is concerned is the proposed EU-US free-trade agreement.

He said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a "prime example that the current state of the EU only serves corporations". Austria, Europe's centre for speciality meats, may now have to face "hormone-treated meat and chlorine-washed chicken", he said.

Vilimsky, who sits on the subcommittee of EU-affairs in Austria's parliament, is more nuanced on the single currency. He argues that only if the economy needs something "drastic" and the euro is not functioning properly should the country return to the Schilling.

Vilimsky started his political life in the early 1990s. His career took off in 2004 when he became secretary of the Viennese party faction.

Just one year later he was manager of the electoral campaign, coining the controversial term "negative immigration". In 2006 he became the Freedom Party’s secretary general in the National Assembly.

While Vilimsky has no political roots in the right-wing German Burschenschaften like Strache and Moelzer, he speaks very highly of some fraternity members, calling them "men of honour".

He has been known for some controversial comments once stating that black African, Turkish and Arab people are "kulturfern" ["distant from culture"]. He later revised the statement saying "It's a fact that African cultures are geographically and culturally remote. That doesn't mean that they are uncultured."

He has also made himself known among other right-wing networks in Europe. In 2008 and 2009 Vilimsky visited the "Anti-Islam Congress" by the extreme right-wing movement Pro Cologne Citizen's Movement [Bürgerbewegung pro Köln].

Vilimsky is intent on the FPOe winning over 20 percent of the vote, a goal he still considers possible despite the outrage sparked by Moelzer's comments which included calling the EU a "conglomerate of Negroes" and comparing it to the Third Reich.

Several national opinion polls suggest the Freedom Party could score between 23 and 27 percent in the EU elections and take first or second place, ahead of the centre-right People's Party.

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