Austria's Ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz Visited Orbán in Hungary

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: August 27, 2023; 18:11 ♦ (Vindobona)

In recent days, former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's visit to Budapest caused a stir and drew criticism. Kurz, who officially works as an entrepreneur, was photographed in front of Austrian and Hungarian national flags during his meeting with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Officially, Sebastian Kurz is active as an entrepreneur, but he conspicuously often poses with high-ranking politicians and continues to act statesmanlike. / Picture: © Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) / Dragan Tatic

The meeting in Budapest was not only a meeting between Orbán and Kurz, but other notable politicians such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić were also present. In addition to the politicians already mentioned, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and the heads of state of Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan were also present, as were the nationalist President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, and Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar.

Rumors say that even more former and active stateheads with controversial pasts were attending thet meeting, like Northmacedonia's Nikola Gruevski, Slovenia's Janze Janša and Rustam Minnikhanov, Head of the Republic of Tartastan and secret negotiator of Vladimir Putin.

The "official" meeting took place in Budapest's Carmelite Monastery and was described by the Hungarian side as an "Austro-Hungarian summit," according to the daily DerStandard. This raised questions about the nature of the meeting, especially because Kurz had stressed after his resignation as chancellor that he no longer had any political ambitions.

It was stressed by Kurz's office that he had no influence on the visual presentation of the meeting and that the decision to prominently position the Austrian flag came from the Hungarian side, according to the daily DerStandard.. Kurz's office added that the former chancellor was invited as a private individual and there was no business or political mandate for the meeting.

There is speculation about whether Orbán tried to persuade Kurz to make a political comeback, but Kurz's spokesman stressed that there is no truth in these rumors, according to ORF. Nevertheless, political issues were discussed at the meeting, including the situation in Ukraine.

What role does Kurz actually play in this context?

Commenting on the visit, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said that Kurz, as a private citizen, can meet whomever he wants. Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, foreign policy spokeswoman for the Green Party, expressed her concerns, as reported by ORF. She questioned Kurz's motives and his role in the meeting. Many observers and analysts are now wondering about the intentions behind this meeting and what role Sebastian Kurz plays in the current political landscape.

Despite Sebastian Kurz's repeated assurances that he intends to retire from politics, he remains in the spotlight. He was photographed alongside Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, at the World Cup in Qatar. He was at the Wiesn with Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder and he welcomed EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Salzburg Festival, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Kurz has openly done business with the founder of the controversial Israeli NSO Group, known for its Pegasus spy software used to spy on dissidents and journalists. After leaving politics, he declared he was going to work for Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump adviser Peter Thiel. Kurz apparently does business in the political sphere, even if this is officially denied.

As reported, Kurz is still an entrepreneur who deals a lot with cybersecurity and spy software. So similar to Peter Thiel, who is one of the biggest producers of spy software. Judging by Orban's guest list, all potential customers for Sebastian Kurz's new business. Accordingly, Peter Thiel's customer base is also covered in countries that do not have the best contacts with the United States.

But it is also clear that when politicians and former politicians meet, political issues are also discussed. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also confirmed that Kurz can meet privately with whomever he wants, since he is not acting on behalf of the Austrian government.

But statements by Orbán contradict this. Schallenberg and Chancellor Karl Nehammer are not distancing themselves from Kurz despite his indictment. Kurz's public presence suggests that he is keeping all options open. If he is acquitted at trial for making false statements and no further charges are brought, some in the ÖVP may favor his return to politics, especially after an election defeat under Nehammer's leadership. Kurz still has many confidants in key positions in the ÖVP, and many others are in his office on Vienna's Ringstrasse, not far from the chancellery.