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Theresa May congratulates new Austria leader amid huge protest over coalition

Sebastian Kurz and his new cabinet were sworn in on Monday.

Theresa May has congratulated Austria’s new chancellor Sebastian Kurz on the formation of his government amid protests against his coalition with the right-wing nationalist Freedom Party.

The Prime Minister and Mr Kurz, who is Europe’s youngest leader at the age of 31, said they were looking forward to working together, her official spokesman said.

The phone call came as around 6,000 people protested in Vienna at the coalition between Mr Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party and the Freedom Party, with signs bearing messages including “We don’t want any Nazi pigs” and “Nazis out”.

Mr Kurz and his new cabinet were sworn in on Monday and the two parties have pledged to tighten Austria’s asylum and immigration laws while remaining committed to the European Union.

The new chancellor has moved his traditionally centrist party to the right on issues such as migration and Islam.

But he has avoided the inflammatory rhetoric of the Freedom Party, which has distanced itself from decades of covert anti-Semitism but continues to attract a neo-Nazi fringe.

Protestors hold a poster with new Chancellor Sebastian Kern and new Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache (Ronald Zak/AP)

Asked if Mrs May approved of the coalition, her official spokesman said: “As I would always say in relation to formation of governments in other countries, they are a matter for those countries.”

He added: “The PM has this morning spoken to the new Austrian chancellor to congratulate him on the formation of his government.

“They agreed that they looked forward to working together, including during Austria’s EU presidency which is due to take place in the second half of 2018.”

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