Norbert Steger (1944 – )
FPÖ Federal Party Chairman from 1980 to 1986
Member of the National Council from 1979 to 1986
Vice-Chancellor of the Republic of Austria from 1983 to 1987
Provincial Party Chairman, FPÖ Vienna from 1977 to 1987
Norbert Steger played a major role in shaping the FPÖ’s party history in the 1970s and 1980s. He led the FPÖ into a federal government for the first time ever. In 1983, he became Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Trade in a coalition government with the SPÖ. As chairman of the “Attersee Circle”, he also played a decisive role in shaping the programmatic development of the FPÖ.
Norbert Steger was born in Vienna on 6 March 1944. Following primary school, he first attended the lower secondary school of the Vienna Boys' Choir (from 1954 to 1959) and in 1959 moved on to a teacher training college, from which he received his high school certificate in 1964. Steger started studying law in 1964 and obtained his doctorate from the University of Vienna in 1970. He opened his own law firm in 1975.
Norbert Steger began his political career in 1965, as deputy chairman of the Ring of Freedom Party Students (RFS). He joined the FPÖ in 1970 and became district party chairman in Vienna-Hernals. He was in that year also one of the co-founders of the so-called "Atterseekreis" (Attersee Circle), which saw itself as a think tank and ideological counterweight to the German-national camp within the Freedom Party. Norbert Steger was thus more on the liberal wing of the FPÖ.
Norbert Steger became deputy provincial chairman of the FPÖ Vienna in 1975 and in 1977, he advanced to become provincial party chairman. After Alexander Götz stepped down from the party leadership, Steger ran for the federal party leadership at a special federal party conference held in Linz in March 1980 and won the election for federal party chairman, beating Harald Ofner, who later became Minister of Justice. Shortly before, Steger had entered the National Council for his party.
Yet the FPÖ was unable to make any real progress at the April 1983 National Council elections and won only one additional seat. That meant it now had 12 National Council MPs. At the same time, however, the SPÖ under Federal Chancellor Bruno Kreisky lost its absolute majority. This circumstance caused the SPÖ to enter into a coalition with the Freedom Party, which was seen as a success for Norbert Steger. A “small coalition” was formed under SPÖ Chancellor Fred Sinowatz, the first and to date last national-level red-blue coalition. This was also the FPÖ's first ever participation in a national-level government. Norbert Steger became Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Trade. The Freedom Party also provided the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Defence, as well as three junior ministers (“state secretaries”).
But the FPÖ’s cooperation with the SPÖ ended as early as 1986 – at exactly the same time that Jörg Haider, the provincial party chairman of the Carinthian FPÖ, was rising through the party. On the one hand, the red-blue coalition had to struggle with considerable problems – examples of which included the financing of Austria’s pension insurance system; the precarious state of Austria’s nationalised industries and the occupation of the Hainburger Au in protest at the planned construction of a hydroelectric power station there. On the other hand, the FPÖ's poll ratings were worsening, which led to internal disputes over which direction the party should take. Matters came to a head in September 1986 at the 18th regular federal party conference held in Innsbruck, where Norbert Steger was defeated by his internal rival, Jörg Haider, in a hotly-contested vote for the party chairmanship. Franz Vranitzky, the new SPÖ Federal Chancellor, immediately asserted that the FPÖ had undergone a “lurch to the right” and thereupon terminated the coalition, which in turn resulted in new elections. At the end of December 1986, Norbert Steger left the ranks of the Freedom Party members of the National Council and in January 1987 also stepped down as Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister. He then largely withdrew from active politics.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Steger resigned from the FPÖ in protest against the then federal party chairman, Jörg Haider. He then devoted himself to his re-founded law firm. When the BZÖ split from the FPÖ in spring 2005, Steger moved closer to his former party again. In 2006 Norbert Steger accepted an invitation to the FPÖ's 50th anniversary celebrations; the former Vice-Chancellor's public appearance also resonated as a symbol of Steger's reconciliation with the FPÖ. In the course of the rapprochement, his party resignation was also reversed in a one-on-one meeting with the new FPÖ federal party chairman, Heinz-Christian Strache. Steger subsequently also advised the new party leader on economic and European issues. Finally, in 2008, the FPÖ delegated Norbert Steger to the Board of Trustees of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF). In May 2018, Steger was elected Chairman of the ORF Board of Trustees.
You can access the video here: Steger und das sozialliberale Experiment
Main political positions
1965 Deputy Chairman of the Ring of Freedom Party Students, Vienna
Representative in the Austrian National Union of Students
1970 Founding member of the “Atterseekreis” in the FPÖ
1975–1977 Deputy Provincial Party Chairman, FPÖ Vienna
1977–1987 Provincial Party Chairman, FPÖ Vienna
1979–1986 Member of the National Council
1983–1987 Vice-Chancellor of the Republic of Austria
1983–1987 Federal Minister for Trade, Commerce and Industry
1978–1980 Deputy FPÖ Federal Party Chairman
1980–1986 FPÖ Federal Party Chairman
Since 2008 Member of the Board of Trustees, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF)
Norbert Steger on the web pages of the Austrian Parliament:
Norbert Steger on the internet portal of the City of Vienna