Thursday, February 2

The new life of former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz


Correspondent in Berlin

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The progressive Austrian press these days are publishing reports on “The Rise and Fall of Sebastian Kurz», The former foreign minister who resigned from both the head of government and the presidency of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) after the Public Prosecutor’s Office opened a corruption investigation that is still ongoing. But Sebastian Kurz has already turned his back on Austria professionally and perhaps also in his heart. After the recent birth of his first child and what Kurz has described to his friends as an “end of stage”, he heads to the United States, where he considers that his family will now enjoy better circumstances, although he does so together with a controversial personality . Kurz will work in Silicon Valley as manager of former Donald Trump adviser Peter Thiel.

The investigation against Kurz and his closest associates has yet to be completed. What is being investigated is whether institutional advertising was paid in a newspaper in exchange for the publication of favorable polls during the years of political ascent of the then very young conservative candidate. Now, at 35 years old and already with the experience of a head of government who has dealt with several coalitions, he is hired by the company Thiel Capital as ‘global strategist’ of an investment fund. Several trips by Kurz have sparked rumors about a second contract with data analyst Palantir, which, however, Jan Hiesserich, Palantir’s director of strategy and communication in Europe, has denied. As long as the investigation continues, a relationship with a publicly traded company can be ruled out, he told Die Presse newspaper.

Kurz announced in early December that he would be retiring from politics entirely and that he was looking forward to spending more time with his family. He is married to Susanne Thier, his girlfriend since high school, and the couple had dropped their preference for educating their offspring in the United States. You could already guess from Kurz’s Twitter account that he was going abroad. He had recently tweeted over and over in English, from his resignation to his best Christmas wishes. It’s also not a huge surprise that he has teamed up with Frankfurt-based investor and billionaire Peter Thiel because they have known each other for several years. In 2017, the two coincided at the Munich Security Conference. Kurz, then Austrian Foreign Minister, thanked on Twitter for the meeting and the fruitful debate on global digitization. Thiel has also shown appreciation for Kurz. When he received the Schirrmacher Prize a year ago, he personally congratulated him on his speech.

Peter Thiel, born in Frankfurt am Main and married to financial expert Matt Danzeisen, made a donation in 2016 to support Donald Trump’s election campaign. For a brief time he also worked for him as a consultant, a closeness to American Republicans that Thiel continues to support with donations.

Sources close to Kurz assure that he will live with one foot in the United States and the other in Vienna. In Austria a trial is still pending and the Public Ministry for the Economy and Corruption (WKStA) is still investigating two other indications. For one thing, he suspects that Kurz testified falsely before the parliamentary commission investigating the Ibiza Case in June 2020, when his FPÖ partner fell into a media trap and promised institutional favors in exchange for donations for the far-right party to a fake niece of a Russian billionaire. That scandal cost Kurz his first government. The former chancellor is also accused of deceiving himself and the leadership of the ÖVP in 2016, sneaking embellished surveys in exchange for institutional publicity. Kurz rejected these accusations from the beginning and continues to do so today. The jurists admit that they are accusations taken by the hair, but he also paid the price of his second government, in this case of a coalition with Los Verdes. From now on you will be part of a management team with much greater global influence than the Austrian government.

Thiel, among other things, is a co-founder of the data analytics company Palantir and the online payment service PayPal. He was also the investor in Facebook and is now on its board of directors. Through Founders Fund, it supports companies such as SpaceX and Airbnb. In an interview with ‘Time’, Peter Thiel’s journalist and biographer Max Chafkin described the tech entrepreneur as “the most important person in Silicon Valley.” In his book, in fact, Chafkin argues that Thiel is responsible for the Silicon Valley ideology, according to which “technological progress must be driven unceasingly, with little or no regard for possible costs and dangers to society.” Thiel himself has written a book called “Zero to One”, in which he promotes a kind of obsolescence of democracy and extols the leadership of technology. The one who was known as a ‘child prodigy’ of Austrian politics and an essential reference in the last decade of the Alpine country, is leaving behind an injured ÖVP. His successor in the Chancellery, Karl Nehamer, insists that “the ÖVP does not have a corruption problem” and points out that the members of the investigating commission “have a partisan political objective, an agenda that cannot be ignored.”

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