Heinz Fischer is one of the most experienced social democratic politicians. He is considered calm, deliberate and predictable. At the age of 65, Heinz Fischer was sworn in as the eighth Austrian Federal President during a solemn ceremony dominated by the mourning for Dr. Thomas Klestil. Dr. Fischer assumed his office in the Hofburg on July 8, 2004 and will head the country for the next six years.
Though the post is largely ceremonial, the president is commander-in-chief of the country’s military forces and has the constitutional power to reject nominations for cabinet ministers and to remove them from office if required.
Dr. Fischer has been professionally associated with parliament for over forty years, except for five years when he was Minister of Science. Initially trained in law, he has been a member of the National Council since 1971 and for twelve years he served as President of the National Council. He is not guilty of quick decisions but prefers a well thought-out decision based on a thorough consideration of all factors.
The ‘man with the pipe’ is not a socialite, and he is not prone to emotional outbursts in public. Within a small, familiar circle he can be very spontaneous, particularly when it is conducive to the matter at hand.
His personal strengths include modesty, thorough deliberation of issues as well as his resolve as a political survivor. Although sometimes criticized for a tendency to avoid risks, many consider this an asset in a person assuming the responsibilities of president.
On July 8, 2004, in a speech before the Federal government, Fischer hinted at the delicate balance between war and peace. He recalled how many Austrians, like himself, grew up during and after WW II, "sensitive to war and peace" and aware that "peace and the politics to promote peace... must have a central role in our political efforts."
The consolidation of the basic values of democracy is another priority for Dr. Fischer: "...Consensus is very important to me. But consensus means to build bridges. Bridges between solid shores. Values that give sense and orientation to politics embody such solid shores for me."
Heinz Fischer was born on October 9, 1938 into a social democratic family. His father, Rudolf Fischer, was State Secretary in the Ministry of Trade from 1954-56 under the Raab/Schärf government. Dr. Fischer was educated in Vienna where he earned a Ph.D. in law and later became a full professor in 1993. His hobbies include mountain climbing and music, particularly jazz. He has been married for thirty-five years to his wife, Margit. Together they have one son and one daughter.