Schüssel, Wolfgang

(1945–)
   Schüssel began his service to the Austrian People’s Party in 1968, the same year he received his law degree from the University of Vienna, the city of his birth. A career politician, he held positions in coalition governments of Chancellor Franz Vranitzky between 1989 and 1994. In 1995, Schüssel became both foreign minister and national leader of his party. As chancellor between 2000 and 2006, he was often caught up in controversy. His willingness to bring the nationalist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) under Jörg Haider into his coalition led to an informal boycott of Austria’s government by the European Union between February and September 2002. Schüssel’s most closely held goal, however, was to bring balanced state budgets to Austria. This he was never able to do, in part because the intermediate steps to this end were fiscally painful to many. His regime, with the aid of the FPÖ, did win approval of several cost-cutting measures, such as increasing fees for university students and reduction of future pension benefits. Ordinary taxes were raised in a system in which the highest marginal rate was 50 percent. Corporate taxes, on the other hand, went down, and the pace of privatization accelerated. Schüssel was not altogether hostile to the Austrian welfare system. In 2002, his government extended postnatal leave by three years. But the disclosure in 2006 that a member of his family had used an illegal home care worker from Slovakia, at a time when Austrians were finding indigenous providers very expensive, was a political disaster for him.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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