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Who is Alexander Schallenberg, Austria’s new leader?

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg is taking on the top job after the country's leader Sebastian Kurz stepped down this weekend over a long-running corruption probe.

Austria's new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg
Austria's former Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg is seen as a close ally of his predecessor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: Jure Makovec / AFP

On Sunday night, Schallenberg made only brief comments to media in which he said the leadership change was “a surprise for all of us”.

Born in Switzerland, he spent his childhood in India, Spain and France where his father took on ambassador roles. Aged 52, he is divorced and a father of four. 

The Foreign Minister began his career as a lawyer, heading up the legal section for Austria’s EU delegation in Brussels. After returning to his home country in 2006, Schallenberg became a press spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, under ministers Ursula Plassnik and Michael Spindelegger.

In June 2019, the ÖVP-FPÖ government collapsed, and Schallenberg was made Foreign Minister in a transitional government, keeping his role when Sebastian Kurz won the election later that year — the only minister to do so. The new Chancellor promoted Schallenberg, giving him responsibility for “strategic foreign policy planning”.

Despite only becoming a member of the Austrian People’s Party relatively recently, he showed himself to be a defender of a tough party line on migration. In 2020, after a fire at a refugee camp in Greece, Schallenberg went on TV to reiterate the position of not taking in refugees from the disaster, calling to “remove the emotions from the debate”. He later said he regretted his choice of words but not his stance.

The new Schallenberg government is set to be sworn in on October 11th.

He’s seen as a strong ally of predecessor Sebastian Kurz, who told Der Spiegel in a 2007 interview that Schallenberg was one of the most talented ministers he had ever known.

Political analyst Thomas Hofer told AFP that his appointment meant Kurz would continue to be the party’s most influential person.

“In Kurz’s view, Schallenberg is a place holder… Kurz made his move in such a way that he still is in control of the party and has the government team on his side,” Hofer said.

One of the challenges facing the new Chancellor is leading a coalition with the Green Party, which has different views to the ÖVP on several issues and not least migration. 

In August, Schallenberg criticised the Greens for their “derogatory tone” after Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler accused the ÖVP of lacking humanity over the acceptance of more refugees from Afghanistan.

Speaking on national broadcaster ORF’s ZIB 2 news programme, the then Foreign Minister said of the coalition: “This is not a marriage of love […] but the cooperation actually works very well.”

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POLITICS

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

Politicians in Austria are getting a 5.3 percent salary increase in 2023 as inflation rises in the country. So how much will they earn?

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

The rising inflation rate, which is expected to be at 10.6 percent in November, is reflected in the salaries of politicians in Austria, according to the official gazette of the Wiener Zeitung.

According to Austrian law, all salaries are calculated based on the income of the members of the National Council, the Austrian Parliament. Next year, they will receive €9,873 gross per month – €497 more than their salaries in 2022. The values were rounded to the whole euro amount. 

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

So, how much are the leading politicians going to earn as a monthly gross salary in 2023?

  • Bundespräsident: the head of the Austrian State (Federal President) will earn €26,701 per month. Alexander Van der Bellen was reelected to the position and should stay in the job for six more years
  • Bundeskanzler: the head of the Austrian government (Chancellor) will earn €23,840 per month. That’s the salary of Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), who is expected to run for reelection in the next national elections set for 2024
  • Vizekanzler: the current vice-chancellor is Werner Kögler (Greens), and he is set to earn €20,979 from 2023
  • NR-Präsident: this refers to the leader of the National Council (Nationalrat, in German), who earns €20,026. Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) holds the position
  • Landeshauptleute: this German word literally means “main persons of the province”. (Land means country, but it actually refers to the bundesländer, the country’s states or provinces). These are the current governors of the Austrian provinces, such as Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), mayor of the city-state of Vienna. They’ll earn €19,072 per month
  • Ministerin/Minister: Ministers of the federal government, including Health and Social Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), will earn €19,072 every month
  • Landesrätin/-rat: the provincial councillors should earn €17,771 every month from 2023
  • Staatssekretärin/-sekretär: State secretaries, who play the part of Ministers in the provincial level, will earn €17,165
  • Bundesratsmitglieder: a “member of the Bundesrat”, which is the upper house in the Austrian parliament, will earn €4,936 per month

READ ALSO: Explained: How to understand your payslip in Austria

In Austria, hired employees are paid 14 times per year, with extra salaries ahead of summer holidays and Christmas.

Unless the National Council decides against the pay rise, the increase will come into effect on January 1st 2023.

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