Chronology of a Changeover of Power


3. 10.: At the Austrian General Election the ÖVP (Austrian People's Party) falls into third place, marginally behind the FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party) but still hopes to improve its position after the postal votes are counted. However, this is not the case. The SPÖ (Austrian Social Democratic Party) remains the strongest party despite heavy losses. The Green Party makes considerable gains. The Liberal Party is 0.3 percent of the vote short of a parliamentary seat.

12. 10.: After the final official result – ÖVP 415 votes behind the FPÖ – the ÖVP decides "to set a course towards opposition". The final result: SPÖ 33.2 % and 65 seats in Parliament; FPÖ 26.9 % and 52 seats; ÖVP 26.9 % and 52 seats; Greens 7.4 % and 14seats; LIF (Liberal Forum) 3.7 % and 0 seats.

14. 10.: President Klestil instructs SPÖ leader Viktor Klima to carry out "exploratory talks about the practical contents of a possible future government programme" – and with all other three parliamentary parties.

15. 10.: Klima-Schüssel (ÖVP leader) private discussion at EU summit in Tampere.

27. 10. – 3. 12.: "Exploratory talks" of SPÖ with ÖVP, FPÖ and Greens. Parallel to this the ÖVP holds "talks on the future" with the FPÖ.

28. 10.: First Schüssel-Haider private discussion. Haider visits Klestil.

14. 11.: After the TV programme "Meet the Press" (Pressestunde) Viktor Klima says that in the end he reckons with the formation of a minority government.

24. 11.: Klestil demands a decision from the ÖVP about participation in government.

29. 11.: Minister of Finance, Rudolf Edlinger (SPÖ) announces that during the continuation of the budget programme he wants to save 20 billion Austrian Schillings (US $1.34 billion).

5. 12.: ÖVP leader Wolfgang Schüssel announces in the "Pressestunde": the ÖVP will not shut itself out from coalition talks.

6. 12.: Klima presents a résumé of exploratory talks to Klestil.

9. 12.: Klestil calls on Klima to form "a government with a clear and solid majority, for the good of the country".

13. 12.: The ÖVP leadership decides to enter negotiations on the new government. Schüssel: The ÖVP will at first negotiate only with the SPÖ.

17. 12.: First round of government negotiations: SPÖ and ÖVP agree "absolute confidentiality" and formulate the aim, "to be clear about a possible new government by mid-January". Klestil expects, "intensive and rapid negotiations carried out in a constructive spirit in several working groups, so that on 30 December 1999 there will be a concrete interim result".

22. 12.: Second round of SPÖ-ÖVP negotiations.

26. 12.: Deputy ÖVP leader Andreas Khol: If talks with the SPÖ break down, FPÖ-ÖVP is the most probable alternative.

28. 12.: Third round of negotiations: There is still no indication whether SPÖ and ÖVP will once again form a government together. Styrian ÖVP councillor Herbert Paierl: "With a new version of the old coalition we'll go to hell with them."

29. 12.: Klima and Schüssel give Klestil and interim report on the coalition talks.


1. 1.: The New Year speeches of Klestil and Klima give strong indications of a push towards the rapid formation of a new government.

5. 1.: The fourth round of SPÖ-ÖVP negotiations. Criticism of the continuation of the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition comes from the Styrian and Burgenland ÖVP.

9. 1.: Media excitement about a "secret pact" between FPÖ and ÖVP for the next eight years. ÖVP and FPÖ deny this. Especially the Styrian ÖVP stirs up opinion against SPÖ-ÖVP. A secret after-dark meeting of the ÖVP grandees on the Tulbinger Kogel just outside Vienna.

10. 1.: The fifth round of SPÖ-ÖVP negotiations. Before the talks, Edlinger expresses thoughts of raising the age for early retirement by two years. Resistance from sections of the SPÖ – especially from the trade unions – is the result.

11. 1.: Klima is not prepared to form "just any" government, he does not want to play the "clown" for four years.

12. 1.: The sixth round of SPÖ-ÖVP negotiations.

13. 1.: Drama comes into the negotiations: Klestil warns SPÖ and ÖVP about the negotiations breaking down and the danger of a new election. The Mayor of Vienna and SPÖ negotiator Michael Häupl loses patience. Announces he will leave the negotiation group if there is no agreement by the beginning of the coming week. Similar announcement from Minister for Home Affairs, Karl Schlögl (SPÖ).

14. 1.: The seventh round of negotiations brings "substantial progress" according to the statements of both parties. FPÖ leader Jörg Haider criticises Klestil: the President should not restrict the possibility of a majority government to SPÖ-ÖVP. He, Haider, would be confident of presenting "a perfect government programme with interesting personalities" within a week.

15. 1.: The SPÖ-ÖVP negotiations are continued in small groups – such as on the budget. The FPÖ presents an alternative government programme.

16. 1.: Eighth round of negotiations. The ÖVP negotiators report again to the leaders of the provincial party sections in the Europahaus in Vienna. Schüssel gets the go-ahead to conclude negotiations.

17. 1.: The ninth round of negotiations becomes a 13-hour marathon. Widespread agreement on policy but not on how the ministries will be divided up. Negotiations are adjourned.

18. 1.: Private discussions between Klima and Schüssel bring no agreement on the list of ministers. The policy package is (unanimously) accepted by the SPÖ presidium and (with a majority) by the ÖVP executive – despite some strong protests from the "grassroots" and the trade unions during the day.

19. 1.: Further private discussions between Klima and Schüssel still bring no agreement on the list of ministers. The SPÖ executive accepts the policy package by 32 votes to 13.

20. 1.: The ÖVP issues an ultimatum: they want the Finance Ministry, otherwise there will be no control over the budget. Furthermore, all SPÖ negotiators – including trade unionist Rudolf Nürnberger – would have to sign the coalition pact to ensure that it would be effective. Talk in the SPÖ of unreasonable demands. A last rescue attempt by Schüssel, who suggests a non-party finance minister, is unsuccessful.

20. 1./21. 1.: In the middle of the night, at 3.17 am, Klima announces the end of coalition talks.

21. 1.: Federal President Thomas Klestil renews his instructions to SPÖ leader, Chancellor Viktor Klima to form a government, meaning a minority government – however, this only becomes clear after some confusion.

24. 1.: ÖVP leader Wolfgang Schüssel announces talks with the FPÖ. The FPÖ presidium votes unanimously in favour of coalition talks with the ÖVP.

25. 1.: FPÖ and ÖVP start talks. The SPÖ initially declares that it still wants to fight for a minority government. In the evening after a meeting of the party leadership, Klima publicly concedes defeat in forming a minority government.

26. 1.: Parliament meets for the first time under new conditions. Officially, the old SPÖ-ÖVP coalition pact is still in place, nevertheless the day in parliament is dominated by mutual reproach from SPÖ and ÖVP. The first of five FPÖ-ÖVP negotiating groups begins work. The first negative international reactions to the possible participation in government of the FPÖ are heard.

27. 1.: Klima informs Klestil that he has failed. The President wants to wait for talks with FPÖ leader Jörg Haider and Schüssel about further proceedings before making a decision. On account of the FPÖ, Belgium asks for a meeting of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers.

28. 1.: The SPÖ announces the end of the coalition agreement with the ÖVP and fully devotes itself to opposition. FPÖ and ÖVP negotiate in a good atmosphere.

29. 1.: The Portuguese Presidency of the EU officially expresses concern about the possible participation in government of the FPÖ. A new stir about Haider, who rejects criticism from France and Belgium. French President Jacques Chirac, who in past years has done everything wrong that could be done wrong, obviously does not know what he is talking about. Austria is not demanding the "removal of a corrupt" government such as that in Belgium.

30. 1.: FPÖ and ÖVP continue talks regardless of growing international pressure.

31. 1.: The Presidency of the EU issues a declaration of the other 14 EU Member States: if the FPÖ becomes part of the government, bilateral relations with Austria should be downgraded. FPÖ and ÖVP agree on policies for a coalition programme. The budget is the crunch question: negotiations on it last until 3 am.

1. 2.: What is probably the last cabinet meeting of the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition meets in front of unprecedented interest from the media in Austria and abroad. Klima emphasises that the attacks are not directed against Austria. After a last meeting of the large negotiating group, FPÖ and ÖVP announce the successful end to talks. The EU Commission in Brussels shares the concern of the Presidency but does not threaten sanctions. The USA considers the same measures as the EU if the FPÖ become part of the government.

2. 2.: Klestil receives Haider and Schüssel. He gives a detailed newspaper interview: if he must swear in an FPÖ-ÖVP government then it is "not out of personal conviction, for I fear that Austria will be damaged at international level". At the same time, he announces that he will receive both party leaders again the following day for them to present a list of ministers and sign a preamble, written by him, to the government programme. The FPÖ and ÖVP executives accept the government programme. Israel decides that in the case of FPÖ government participation they will call their ambassador in Vienna home for an indefinite period.

3. 2.: Federal President Thomas Klestil finally accepts the government programme of the FPÖ and ÖVP and – after crossing out two names – also the list of ministers. The preamble to the government programme is written by Klestil. Israel bans Haider from entering the country.

4. 2.: Swearing in of the Wolfgang Schüssel (V) – Susanne Riess-Passer (F) cabinet.

17. 2.: Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser (F) announces that it is necessary to save 200 billion schillings (US $ 13.5 billion).

19. 2.: More than 100,000 demonstrate against the government in the centre of Vienna.

24. 2.: First Thursday demonstration.

28. 2.: Jörg Haider announces his withdrawal from the FPÖ party leadership and to become an "ordinary party member". From 1 May, the new FPÖ leader will be Vice-Chancellor Riess-Passer. However, the Portuguese Presidency of the EU promptly declares that the position of the 14 remains unchanged.

29. 2.: Michael Krüger (F) resigns as Minister of Justice due to stress. His successor is FPÖ party lawyer Dieter Böhmdorfer, who soon comes under pressure in the spying affair.

20. 3.: Government parties' call for "national solidarity" against EU sanctions fails.

23./24. 3.: EU Summit in Lisbon. Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel tries to get support for an end to the sanctions. EU Council President Antonio Guterres blocks him.

5. 4.: The cabinet decides on the cornerstones of the pension reform.

6. 4.: A delegation from the European People's Party (EPP) wants examine the situation in Austria and present a report by June. In the meantime, the ÖVP suspends its membership of the EPP. A motion to expel the ÖVP is thereby removed from the agenda.

7. 4.: In Vienna the European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) is opened. Although the Federal Government is not invited, Foreign Minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner takes part in the opening ceremony.

27. 4.: Parliament a law accompanying the 2000 budget. Taxes and contributions are increased in 2000 by a total of 6.9 billion schillings (approx. US $ 0.5 billion) and for the following years, the figure is 11.2 billion (US $ 0.75 billion). 

29. 4.: Alfred Gusenbauer becomes new SPÖ leader.

5. 5.: The government puts together a plan of action to deal with the EU sanctions. The last of a total of 18 points is a referendum.

8. 5.: At an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers on the Azores, Benita Ferrero-Waldner (V) takes up the idea of a council of wise men as a possible means of ending the sanctions of the EU 14. At the same time, however, she demands the suspension of sanctions.

13. 5.: For FPÖ Party Secretary Peter Westenthaler, Ferrero-Waldner's proposal is, "Inconceivable and totally out of the question."

18. 5.: Parliament passes the Budget 2000. The opposition criticises the "package of burdens" for the socially deprived.

27. 5.: Ferrero-Waldner is now also sceptical about monitoring of Austria. She proposes that the European Commission should deliver a report on events since the formation of the government.

3. 6.: As the first trade union, railway-worker representatives decide on a strike against the pension reform.

6. 6.: The European People's Party (EPP) certifies that, since the ÖVP-FPÖ government took office there has been "no impairment of the democratic system". The ÖVP is invited to become a full active member once again.

9. 6.: Berlin and Paris state that there will be no change in the position on Austria at the EU summit at the end of June in Feira. 

19./20. 6.: At the close of the EU summit in Feira Guterres announces an initiative from Portugal for a way to end the sanctions.

27. 6.: In Brussels a proposal agreed by the EU 14 is announced. It proposes that the sanctions remain in place. Guterres should ask the President of the European Court of Human Rights to arrange for three "wise men" to write a report. The president of the court, the Swiss, Luzius Wildhaber, asks for the agreement of Austria for such a mandate. 

28. 6.: ÖGB (Austrian trade union association) day of action against government cuts with demonstrations throughout Austria and a warning strike by railway workers.

29. 6.: The EU 14 agree on the establishment of a council of wise men to judge the work of the new government. Schüssel says that he is prepared to cooperate with the three "wise men" but is "disappointed" in the EU 14.

4. 7.: The government wants to present a balanced national budget by the end of the 2003 legislative period. One week later the period is shortened to 2002. Plans for a referendum on EU sanctions considered by the government are put on ice until the report of the three wise men is completed.

12. 7.: Luzius Wildhaber announces the names of the three wise men.

28./29./30. 7.: The three wise men visit Austria. 

8. 9.: The wise men recommend the lifting of sanctions. Four days later, the measures are officially ended. However, the EU 14 show "serious concern" about the "nature of the FPÖ".

19. 9.: The government presents its package for targeting social benefits, which among other things provides for the introduction of university fees.

1. 10.: The former FPÖ police trade unionist Josef Kleindienst reports for the first time about the "spying affair". In the course of investigations there is a huge row between the FPÖ and the Minister for Home Affairs, Ernst Strasser (V).

3. 10.: After six rounds of negotiations and public strike threats the government and the civil service trade union agree on wage talks.

16. 10.: After the FPÖ election defeat in Styria, Jörg Haider threatens new elections if the ÖVP does not end its "double strategy".

22. 10.: Minister for Social Affairs, Elisabeth Sickl (F) has to leave the government and is replaced by Herbert Haupt (F).

24. 10.: In Vienna the agreements on compensation for NS forced labourers are signed. Austria will pay approximately 150,000 NS forced labourers between 5,000 and 105,000 schillings (US $350 – $7,200). 

25. 10.: In the spying affair the Public Prosecutor's Department begins preliminary inquiries into Haider and the Lower Austrian councillor Ewald Stadler (F).

3. 11.: In the light of investigations in the spying affair FPÖ leader Riess-Passer speaks of a "very serious situation for the coalition".

4. 11.: Minister for Infrastructure, Michael Schmid (F) is the third government member to resign: "the battery is dead". Succeeded by Monika Forstinger (F).

5. 12.: Teachers' strike, streets blocked and an ÖBG (Austrian trade union association) chain of people around Parliament. In Vienna and other Austrian towns, there are demonstrations against the government's proposed cuts. Next day Parliament passes the Budget 2001 with the votes of the coalition parties.


17. 1.: In negotiations in Washington, agreement is reached on compensation for the victims of Nazism. Payments of almost 15 billion schillings are agreed (US $1 billion).

3. 2.: On the eve of the first anniversary of the swearing in of the government there is a demonstration against ÖVP-FPÖ.