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Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 10:48 GMT
Haider's men and women
Joerg Haider has resigned as leader of Austria's far right Freedom Party, and Susanne Riess-Passer, who is vice chancellor, has been chosen to take over his role. These are profiles of people Mr Haider entrusted with the top positions in the government - and a couple who were barred.

Susanne Riess-Passer (Vice Chancellor)

Dr Riess-Passer is Mr Haider's private secretary and close confidante. She is Austria's first woman vice-chancellor and has been placed in charge of women's affairs.

Riess Passer Freedom Party


She earned the nickname "royal cobra" after clamping down on a high-level row which threatened to damage the party a few years ago.

The 39-year-old jurist was a European parliament deputy in 1995-96, was elected to the Tyrol state legislature in 1999, and the national parliament in October.

She says a key factor in the Freedom Party's success is that they have talked openly ''about how everything the state owns is divided up between the reds and the blacks" (The Socialists and Christian Democrats who have ruled for the last 50 years).

Karl-Heinz Grasser (Finance Minister)

At 31, Mr Grasser is Austria's youngest finance minister in the country's modern history.

Grasser Freedom Party
He is a rising star in the Freedom Party and was formerly deputy governor of Carinthia, the province now governed by former party leader Joerg Haider.

He moved to the Austrian subsidiary of Canadian automotive parts supplier Magna International after a row with Mr Haider in 1998.

Mr Grasser's first task will be to put together a budget for 2000 to close a 45 billion schilling hole in state finances which threatens to make Austria's budget deficit the largest in the EU this year.

Elisabeth Sickl (Social Affairs Minister)

Ms Sickl, 60, a teacher, has said she would never be part of a party that did not share her ''humanist values''.

Sickl - Freedom Party
She joined Mr Haider's party because she could not get promoted to a school principal without joining one of the two coalition parties.

She says Mr Haider has already introduced a merit system in the civil service in Carinthia which would ensure even Slovenian nationalists stood a fair chance of promotion.

Herbert Scheibner (Defence Minister)

Mr Scheibner says Austria's traditional position of neutrality has become obsolete and has proposed forming a professional army.

France's Defence Minister Alain Richard has already ruled out any direct contact with him.

Scheiber - Freedom Party
Scheiber
Mr Scheibner, 36, was general secretary of the Freedom Party from 1992 until 1995, and has more recently been the party spokesman on defence matters.

He denies the party is extremist, maintaining it has an ''essentially more reasonable and more liberal position on foreigners than many in the ruling parties".

Michael Schmid (Infrastructure)

Mr Schmid, 44, an architect, has a reputation for pragmatism. He has held several local party posts in the southern state of Styrie, becoming the local head in 1989.

Michael Krueger (Justice)

Mr Krueger, 44, a lawyer, was previously spokesman for culture and the constitution. He joined the Freedom Party in 1993 and says he was convinced by Mr Haider's book; The Freedom I Want to Speak of.

And the ones who did not make it

Thomas Prinzhorn

Mr Haider's first choice for vice chancellor was ruled out because of his anti-foreigner statements.

These included his claim last year that foreigners living in Austria had been given free hormone treatment to boost their birth rate.

Hilmr Kabas

Mr Haider's initial choice for defence minister was rejected because of his election campaign which was condemned as racist.

Mr Kabas, who is head of the party's Vienna branch, put up posters which warned of Ueberfremdung, or "over-foreignisation" - a term used by Nazi propaganda chief, Josef Goebbels.

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See also:

03 Feb 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Haider and the Auschwitz survivor
03 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
MEPs back sanctions threat to Haider
02 Feb 00 |  Europe
Joerg Haider: Key quotes
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider
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