December 16, 2017 / 3:11 PM / a year ago

Factbox - Key figures in Austria's new coalition government

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s centre-right People’s Party (OVP) led by Sebastian Kurz and the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO) have agreed to form a coalition government.

The deal marks a major victory for a European far-right party after a flurry of elections this year, in which right-wing parties have made gains but failed to enter coalitions elsewhere in Western Europe.

Here are the main figures in the new government:

SEBASTIAN KURZ (OVP), CHANCELLOR

Kurz became a conservative junior minister at 23, Europe’s youngest foreign minister at 27 and leader of the People’s Party at 30, moving it further to the right of the political spectrum. He has yet to complete his law degree while he pursues politics.

An early critic of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-border policy as Europe’s migration crisis escalated in 2015, he infuriated Berlin when he spearheaded the closure of the Balkan route into Europe.

Known for his slicked-back hair, he speaks eloquently but often eschews discussing policy details in public.

He won October’s parliamentary elections promising to break with Austria’s decades-old political consensus which shares power among conservatives, Social Democrats, labour and employer associations.

HEINZ-CHRISTIAN STRACHE (FPO), VICE-CHANCELLOR

The 48-year-old former dental technician is the longest-serving party chief in Austria and enters government for the first time.

During the campaign he accused Kurz of stealing the FPO’s ideas, but Strache toned down his rhetoric during coalition negotiations stressing joint political targets.

Strache is keen on ridding his party of its neo-Nazi image, portraying it as a mainstream defender of the middle class. He has called for “zero immigration” and wants to ban political Islam.

KARIN KNEISSL (FPO REPRESENTATIVE), FOREIGN MINISTRY

The multilingual Middle East and international law expert got her new job on an FPO ticket. She has never been a member of the FPO, which has expressed sympathy for Israel’s desire to host embassies in Jerusalem and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s party.

Kneissl, 52, has criticised Merkel’s open-door policy towards refugees and has called the European Union’s migrant deal with Turkey “nonsense” in newspaper comments.

Kneissl, who owns a farm in Lower Austria province, worked in the foreign ministry under a conservative minister in the 1990s.

HERBERT KICKL (FPO), INTERIOR MINISTRY

The Freedom Party’s general secretary is seen as its mastermind and powerbroker who wields influence in all party matters.

The 49-year-old future police supremo, who started his career as speechwriter for charismatic late FPO chief Joerg Haider, is known for his sharp tongue.

The political hardliner has been a member of parliament for more than a decade.

MARIO KUNASEK (FPO), DEFENCE MINISTRY The hardliner inherits a legal dispute with Europe’s largest aerospace company Airbus (AIR.PA) over a 2003 fighter jet purchase and will soon have to decide how to modernise the neutral country’s aerial defences. Kunasek, 41, called for a night-time curfew for asylum seekers in 2016 and curbing asylum seekers’ access to health services in 2015, according to human rights group SOS Mitmensch. Last year, he published an article in Die Aula, a magazine linked to Austria’s right-wing extremist scene, according to the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance that researches the far right.

HARTWIG LOEGER (OVP), FINANCE MINISTRY

Loeger has no university degree, but over 30 years of experience in the insurance sector, where he has been the chief executive of Uniqa’s (UNIQ.VI) Austrian unit since 2013. The 52-year-old manager, a surprise ministerial appointee who has not held public office before, enjoys sports and art.

GERNOT BLUEMEL (OVP), CHANCELLERY MINISTRY

A close ally of Kurz’s, whom he knows from their time in the conservatives’ youth wing, 36-year-old Bluemel studied philosophy in Austria and France, focussing on “Christian social teachings”.

After various posts in the party he became chief of the conservatives in Vienna, a traditional Social Democratic stronghold, in 2015. He is in charge of the party’s media portfolio.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, Shadia Nasralla. Editing by Jane Merriman

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