German Chancellor Angela Merkel has often been called the European Union’s real leader, though she’s never wanted that role and her moves in Europe have always been dictated by German domestic politics. A different chancellor seems positioned for leadership now: Austria’s Sebastian Kurz.
Few people care much about the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, which Austria assumed on July 1. It’s usually just a public relations opportunity for member states that otherwise get little time in the limelight. It’s different with Kurz, though. In the six months since he became chancellor at the head of a coalition between his center-right People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party, he has positioned himself as a go-to figure for European politicians as well as for powerful outside forces.