"He's the rock star of the new right," Johannes Vetter, a center-left Social Democrat, said when commenting on the Austrian chancellor's success in his country. The leader of Austria's center-right party managed to draw his country's right-wing forces to his side and win public support by using anti-refugee rhetoric. But right now his popularity is beginning to cross the border — he has earned the admiration of US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and from the new Italian government, which also came to power on a wave of popular desire to deal with illegal immigration.
Kurz has also made appearances with CSU leader Horst Seehofer, who has taken a hardline policy when it comes to immigration. Their meeting came ahead of the ultimatum that Seehofer, a long-standing ally of Merkel's CDU, issued to the German chancellor, demanding a solution to the problem of illegal migrants in Germany within two weeks.
Now Merkel is hastily gathering European leaders for a mini-summit to work out a solution and some political experts have already questioned the chances of the sustainability of the CDU/CSU alliance and thus the fate of the German governing coalition. It is still unclear how Merkel, who opened Germany's borders to migrants from the Middle East, will hold her party together, while also satisfying the CSU's ultimatum.
At the same time, opposition parties have criticized Merkel and Seehofer for their public tensions, with the head of the Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner, suggesting that the two need to coordinate instead of argue and the chief of the Die Linke Party, Sahra Wagenknecht, has accused Merkel of purely "symbolic" steps ahead of the elections in the CSU's home state of Bavaria.
In other words, Kurz is gathering allies across Europe ahead of Austria ascending to the EU presidency, while Merkel risks losing her own allies, both at home and abroad.