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Nationally-focused: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was the first European leader to close borders—and he didn’t wait to consult EU partners. Photo: CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Shutterstock

Young, brash and egotistical—the continent’s new generation of leaders scorn today’s EU, but might just save Europe

They move fast and break things, but they might just have the energy to fix Brussels

By Mark Leonard   July 2020

Outside the historic chancellery building in Vienna’s Ballhausplatz 2 in early March, horses and carts ferried tourists languidly about the historic imperial centre while people sat outside the famous coffee houses enjoying the first rays of spring sunshine. They had no idea that Austria’s 33-year old chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, was about to lock the city down and force them into house arrest for the next few weeks.

The young chancellor had been studying the spread of coronavirus in neighbouring Italy with growing nervousness. After consultations with counterparts in far-flung places—Israel, Japan, Singapore and South Korea—on 11th March he became one of the first European leaders to introduce unilateral border closures. Although it was obvious that this precipitate action would have consequences far beyond his borders, Kurz’s instinct was not to call an international summit or co-ordinate with the rest of Europe, still less the United States. 


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