Luxury home: Petrolhead environmentalist: Far-right party in government:
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been identified as the owner of a 50,000 square foot Versailles-style mansion outside Paris, which was described as the world’s most expensive home when it sold for s275m in 2015. The purchaser was not named at the time, but New York Times investigators claim that it is owned by various shell companies ultimately controlled by the prince. If true, the revelation will embarrass the 32-year-old, who has preached austerity at home while leading a corruption crackdown on Saudi millionaires. His other recent purchases reportedly include a $500m yacht bought from a Russian businessman.
The French environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, has been forced to admit that he owns no fewer than six cars, as well as a motorbike and a motorboat. Hulot, a former TV presenter who was well known for his green activism before he entered politics, recently announced a ban on the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. However, at the weekend it was revealed – thanks to new rules on financial disclosure among cabinet ministers – that his own collection includes a BMW, a 30-year-old 2CV, a VW camper van and a Land Rover (for his holiday home in Corsica). In total, his assets are worth s7.2m, making him the second-richest cabinet minister. In response to the disclosures, Hulot insisted that he travelled in electric vehicles 95% of the time. “I am all for transparency, but I am not for voyeurism or hair-splitting,” he said.
Austria’s youthful new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has agreed to govern in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) – making Austria the only country in western Europe with a far-right presence in government. Kurz’s People’s Party (ÖVP) took 32% of the vote in October’s election. The FPÖ, led by Heinz-christian Strache (pictured right, with Kurz), took 26%. Under the agreement struck last weekend, Strache becomes vice-chancellor; the FPÖ will hold key ministries including defence; and the government will adopt a range of hard-line policies on asylum seekers and immigration, including the imposition of financial sanctions on immigrants who fail to “integrate” with mainstream society.
About 5,500 people joined a street protest in Vienna on Monday, when the new government was sworn in by Austria’s president, Alexander Van der Bellen: he had previously said he would not swear in an FPÖ government. The protests were tiny, however, compared with those that took place when the FPÖ – founded in the 1950s by former Nazis – last joined the government: in 2000, 150,000 people took to the streets; there was outrage across the EU; and Israel recalled its ambassador. That coalition lasted two years and support for the FPÖ slumped at the next election.