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Profile: Austrian President Heinz Fischer

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Profile: Austrian President Heinz Fischer
The President celebrated 10 years in office by lunching with homeless people in a shelter. Photo: APA (Pfarrhofer)
18:01 CEST+02:00
With the celebration Tuesday of his tenth year in office, The Local's Austrian of the Week is President Heinz Fischer. He was honoured for the occasion with a ceremony in the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna.

President Heinz Fischer celebrated ten years in office on July 8th. As commander in chief of Austria's armed forces he was honoured by Minister of Defence Gerald Klug (Social Democrats/SPÖ) and Chief of General Staff Othmar Commenda among other high army representatives with a ceremony in the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna.

Later on Fischer paid a visit to the homeless shelter "Gruft" in Vienna's sixth district, which is run by the Catholic aid organisation Caritas. There he talked with several homeless people and joined them for lunch saying to journalists that "the right to be treated with humanity is not negotiable". He added that he took the decision to visit the "Gruft" because he really appreciated the work of charity organizations.

Head of Caritas, Michael Landau, said that Fischer had declared before he took office that he would invite charity organisations into the Hofburg, which he did. However, Landau also asked Fischer for further support to combat poverty.

Fischer was inaugurated as the eighth President of the Second Republic on 8 July 2004 and was re-elected for a second and final term on 25 April 2010. He previously served as Minister of Science from 1983 to 1987 and as President of the National Council of Austria from 1990 to 2002.

Furthermore he was one of the most influential politicians in the SPÖ and he has been very popular since his election as President. The 75-year-old suspended his SPÖ party membership for the duration of his presidency.

Fischer has always declared himself as a supporter of a coalition between the SPÖ and the conservative People's Party (ÖVP) and got what he wanted after the parliamentary elections in 2006, 2008 and 2013. Fischer has been married since 1968 and has two grown-up children.  His term in office will end in 2016.

Originally from Graz in Styria - the home state of Arnold Schwarzenegger - Fischer studied law in Vienna, gaining his doctorate in 1961.

In 1963, he spent a year volunteering at a kibbutz in northern Israel.  As well as his work as a politician, Fischer was a professor of political science at the University of Innsbruck.

His critics claim that as a career politician he is 'out of touch with the real world', and has avoided controversy, however he considers this an asset as he 'doesn't like to antagonize people.'

Unlike many Austrians, Fischer does not believe in God, claiming to be an agnostic.  

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