Austria appoints far-right central banker to ECB post

The Austrian government on Wednesday named an official affiliated to the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) as the new head of its national central bank, a position that automatically carries with it a seat at the European Central Bank.

Austria appoints far-right central banker to ECB post

The government appointed Robert Holzmann as governor of the OeNB, making him the first far-right official from a member state to sit on the ECB's policy-setting governing council, the body in charge of setting interest rates for the 19-country eurozone.

The 69-year-old economist has close links to the FPOe, the junior partner in a power-sharing coalition with the centre-right Austrian People's Party (OeVP) of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. 

Holzmann has previously worked for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and for the World Bank, where he held two different directorial posts between 1997 and 2011. 

Despite his long association with the FPOe, Holzmann “is not a member of our party and was chosen for his competence,” vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache told a news briefing.

The FPOe is traditionally a eurosceptic party and previously campaigned for a referendum on Austria's EU membership, before dropping that promise as part of the coalition agreement with the OeVP. 

Close to the FPOe's so-called “liberal” wing, Holzmann is regarded as taking an orthodox approach to the ECB's monetary policy.

But Austrian media were quick to point out that the economist, a specialist on pension issues, has little central banking experience.

Holzmann takes over as OeNB chief from Ewald Nowotny, whose second five-year term expires at the end of August and who was close to the centre-left Social Democrats.