Othmar Karas

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Othmar Karas
Karas, Othmar-2508.jpg
Leader of the Austrian People's Party in the European Parliament
In office
1 July 1999 – 2019
ChairWolfgang Schüssel
Wilhelm Molterer
Josef Pröll
Michael Spindelegger
Reinhold Mitterlehner
Sebastian Kurz
Member of the European Parliament
Assumed office
1 July 1999
AffiliationEPP group
Vice President of the European Parliament
In office
18 January 2012 – 30 June 2014
PresidentMartin Schulz
Gianni Pittella (acting)
Member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee
Assumed office
1 July 2014
ChairRoberto Gualtieri
Personal details
Born (1957-12-24) 24 December 1957 (age 62)
Ybbs an der Donau, Austria
Political partyFlag of Austria.svg Austrian People's Party
Flag of Europe.svg European People's Party
Spouse(s)Christa Waldheim
Alma materUniversity of Vienna
University of St.Gallen
WebsiteOfficial website

Othmar Karas (born 24 December 1957) is an Austrian politician who has been serving as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 1999. He is a member of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), which in turn affiliates with the European People's Party.

Karas sits on the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Special Committee on Tax Rulings and Other Measures Similar in Nature or Effect. Between 2012 and 2014, he was one of the vice presidents of the European Parliament. Since the 2019 elections, he has been again serving as one of its vice-presidents; in this capacity, he is part of the Parliament’s leadership under President David Sassoli.[1]

Education and early career[edit]

  • Manager in the banking and insurance sector (since 1981)
  • Magister of Philosophy, political science, University of Vienna (1996)
  • Master of European and International Business Law (MBL), University of St. Gallen (1997)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, political science, University of Vienna (2017)
  • Assistant Secretary-General of Bundesländer Versicherung (currently on leave of absence)

Political career[edit]


  • Federal president of the Union of Students (1976–1979)
  • Political adviser to the ÖVP (1979–1980)
  • First Vice-Chairman of the Austrian Federal Youth Association (1980–1990)
  • Federal Chairman of the Young ÖVP (1981–1990)
  • Member of the national executive of the ÖVP (1981–1991)
  • Secretary-General of the ÖVP (1995–1999)
  • Vice-President of the Young European Christian-Democrats (EUJCD) (1981–1990)
  • Member of the EPP Bureau and Council (since 1995)
  • Member of the steering committee of the European Democrat Union (EDU) (since 1995)
  • Member of the National Council (1983–1990)

Member of the European Parliament, 1999–present[edit]

Karas has been a Member of the European Parliament since the 1999 European elections. He has since been serving on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. In the past, he has in served as a substitute for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and as member of the temporary committee on policy challenges and budgetary means of the enlarged Union 2007–2013. More recently, he joined the Special Committee on Tax Rulings and Other Measures Similar in Nature or Effect in 2015 and the Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion in 2016.

In the European Parliament, Karas has become one of the center-right’s experts on financial regulation. As the rapporteur for the Capital Requirements Directive IV, he played a central role in the parliamentary implementation of capital requirements agreed in the Basel III accords.[2] He helped negotiate a 2013 agreement on an EU-wide cap on bankers' bonuses.[3] Alongside Liêm Hoang Ngoc, he later co-drafted a controversial 2014 report highlighting problems with the European Union-led bail-outs of Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland during the European debt crisis.[4]

In addition to his committee assignments, Karas has been the chairman of the parliament's delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee since 2014. He previously serves as member of the delegation for relations with Japan and as substitute for the delegation for relations with the People's Republic of China.

Within his political bloc, the centre-right European People's Party Group, Karas served as the group’s spokesperson on economic affairs from 2002 until 2004 and as vice-president and treasurer from 2004 until 2011. From 2011 until 2019, he led the ÖVP delegation within the EPP group.

In the 2009 European elections, the ÖVP leadership replaced Karas by Ernst Strasser as its lead candidate for the European Parliament;[5] Strasser later had to resign as a consequence of the 2011 cash for influence scandal. Ahead of the 2014 European elections, the ÖVP re-nominated Karas as its lead candidate. At the time, he was considered by Austrian media as a possible successor to Johannes Hahn as Austrian nominee for European Commissioner.[6]

Since the 2019 European Parliament election, Karas has been serving as one of its Vice-Presidents; in this capacity, he is part of the Parliament’s leadership under President David Sassoli.[7][8]

Political positions[edit]

Following the 2014 elections, Karas joined fellow MEPs Sven Giegold, Sylvie Goulard, Sophie in 't Veld and Alessia Mosca in an open letter aimed at exerting pressure on the President of the European Commission and national government leaders during the nominations process to improve the gender balance in the composition of the European Commission.[9]

Other activities[edit]

  • Hilfswerk Austria, President (since 1998)
  • Political Academy of the Austrian People's Party, Vice-President
  • Austrian Society for China Studies (ÖGCF), Member of the Presidium
  • Austrian Association of Graduates, Member of the Board
  • Institute for Public Social Responsibility, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Kangaroo Group, President (2009-2013), Member of the Board (since 2013)

EU expenses scandal[edit]

In 2005, EU parliamentarian Hans Peter Martin revealed that Karas collected thousands of euros of "daily allowance" of 262 euros a day, even though he was often only in Brussels for a few hours on those days or it was a matter of holiday weeks.[10]


Private life[edit]

Karas is married to Dr. Christa Waldheim-Karas, daughter of Kurt Waldheim and Elisabeth Waldheim.


External links[edit]