German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that European politicians “must stand up to” far-right politicians “for sale”, after a hidden-camera sting brought down nationalist Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache over allegations he was open to corruption.
While far-right parties rejected values like protecting minorities and basic human rights, Merkel told a press conference in Croatian capital Zagreb, “politicians being for sale plays a role, and we must act decisively against all of that”.
Germany’s Der Spiegel and Sueddeutsche Zeitung late Friday published video recordings, allegedly showing Freedom Party (FPOe) leader Strache promising public contracts in return for campaign help from a fake Russian backer.
Merkel, a heavyweight in the EU-wide centre-right EPP group, was speaking ahead of a gathering of Croatia’s ruling conservative HDZ party as the European Parliament election campaign draws to a close.
Speaking still more forcefully at the event, she argued that “patriotism and the European project are not opposites”.
“Nationalism is the enemy of the European project, and we have to make that clear in the last days before the election,” she added.
Merkel’s intervention followed a string of appeals from leading German politicians for voters not to follow the neighbouring country’s example by putting the far right in positions of power.
Austria’s conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had been “irresponsible” to invite the FPOe into his government, foreign minister Heiko Maas of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) said, calling them “enemies of freedom”.