Chancellor Bierlein with heart, brain and a great sense of humor (2024)

A golden lucky cat from Japan beckons from the corner. A gift from the new Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (50). Next to the computer at her desk is a small statue of Justitia as a reminder of her great career as a top lawyer, behind it on the wall is a painting by Innsbruck artist Markus Prachensky. Brigitte Bierlein (70), who actually wanted to study architecture or art in her younger years, would like to move her beloved red and orange Mikl loans from the Albertina out of her old office as soon as possible and shows the place on the wall where they should then hang.

Always a little extravagantly dressed and perfectly coiffed
Our new Chancellor welcomes us to her office in the Chancellery. She has moved into the Metternichzimmer, where Gernot Blümel and Christian Kern last resided. A modern, very bright and friendly office. She herself somehow fits in perfectly in her pastel-colored lace dress and fashionable high heels: an extremely petite, elegant appearance, always dressed a little extravagantly and perfectly coiffed.

Brigitte Bierlein in the Metternichzimmer in the Chancellery

(Bild: Reinhard Holl)

A mini-Justitia at her desk

(Bild: Reinhard Holl)

Forget the image you may have of her from television. She's not really like that in person: controlled, focused and reserved when she talks about content, but humorous and extremely warm, with a sparkling irony and intelligence in personal conversations. Especially when she talks about herself, about men in general and hers in particular, or about her encounters with Van der Bellen's Bello in the President's office and can laugh with amusem*nt. But more on that later. First things first:

SMS with the Ibiza video: "This is a bomb"
It's Friday evening on May 17th, the President of the Constitutional Court is sitting comfortably with friends at a wine tavern when she receives a text message from a journalist friend: "This is a bomb", attached is the link to the video that was to shake the Republic shortly afterwards. What she sees leaves her speechless. She has no idea what impact what she has seen will have. Also on her own career. After zack, zack, zack, things happen in a flash. First Interior Minister Herbert Kickl is removed from office, then the entire government.

(Bild: Der Spiegel, SZ)

These are moving days for the Republic, as events have come thick and fast in recent days. On the day before Ascension Day, her mission to the Chancellery begins. In the early morning, thousands take their leave of Niki Lauda, who has since succumbed to his illness, in the pouring rain at St. Stephen's Cathedral. Brigitte Bierlein is sitting in her office when the secretary asks if she can give the Federal President her cell phone number. Three minutes later, the phone rings. It was urgent, she said, whether she could come.

"I was totally perplexed and said: How is that supposed to work?"
In order to avoid any unnecessary fuss, she treads under a large umbrella to the back entrance of the Hofburg instead of driving up in the official limousine. She has a faint premonition of what might be in store for her: possibly the Ministry of Justice - the end of a brilliant career. But the top lawyer is thinking too modestly. Because she is about to become Chancellor! In an interview with "Krone", she looks back on the moment: "The question came very suddenly. I was totally perplexed and said: 'I'm very honored, but how is that supposed to work? I'm not a politician."

But VdB refused to be shaken off and persisted. The Republic needs her. All right, then she'll just think about it, she promises. At least for one night. The next day she agrees. Her partner (she is in a relationship with Ernest Maurer, a former judge) is said to have advised: "It's your life, you have to know what you're doing. I wouldn't do it. But if I say no, then you'll do it anyway." She laughs: "Which he was right about."

Partner Ernest Maurer (formerly a judge)

(Bild: privat)

"I was there so often that the dog sat on my lap"
Over the next few days, a new government will have to be formed at full speed. Grueling coordination talks with all those involved and their sensitivities. She flits back and forth between the Constitutional Court and the Hofburg countless times: "I've been there so often that the President's dog has already greeted me with a wagging tail and sat on my lap." Another nice description that you wouldn't expect from her if you follow her otherwise so controlled appearances.

Why the extreme haste, the new chancellor wanted to know from the president, who was consistently pushing the envelope, and received the answer the day after the inauguration when the head of state stated in his speech at a ceremony in his home town of Kaunertal: "I hurried so that I could be here on time today!" Marksmen, band, flag delegation, toot.

Federal Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein and Alexander Van der Bellen


Brigitte Bierlein has been the first female Federal Chancellor of the Republic for just over two months now and comes across as convincing when she says: "It is what it is. I didn't aim for it."

With her expert government, the new Chancellor is extremely popular. In "ZiB 2", Armin Wolf quoted a survey according to which 80% of Austrians believe she is doing a "very good" or "good" job. We ask her why this is the case - when she only wants to "administer and not shape" - and get the answer: "Perhaps because we are not politicians and don't argue. Because we act calmly and objectively and don't have to fight for votes?" To add a little call to order to the election campaign squabblers: "A little more culture wouldn't be a bad thing."

First female president of the Constitutional Court
Being first is nothing new for the disciplined Viennese: she completed her studies in minimum time, passed the judges' examination at the age of just 25, became a public prosecutor at 28, first Advocate General at 40, then first Vice President of the Constitutional Court and its first President in 2018. She remembers her beginnings: she was the only woman among mainly older, more established gentlemen in dark pinstripe three-piece suits: "They must have thought: what does this young woman want? I had to make an extreme effort because of that." To lighten up the office meetings, she introduced coffee rounds: "I stood there with two coffee pots, one in my left hand and one in my right. A bit of humor always helps."

(Bild: Reinhard Holl)

Not feeling targeted as a childless careerist
Bierlein has no children and, like many women in similar positions, has to put up with being asked about it. Just like snappy remarks, such as from the 30 years younger NEOS leader Beate Meinl-Reisinger (41), a mother of three, who actually said, alluding to the also childless former chancellor Kurz, that she "didn't just want to be governed by childless careerists". The 70-year-old brushes a rebellious strand of hair out of her face and smiles mildly: "Well, to be honest, I didn't feel addressed. When I was younger, I was simply far too busy to do my job well. And I wouldn't have dared, like Ursula von der Leyen, to have seven children alongside my job. That's quite remarkable, even if you can afford it financially." And in the end, it just didn't happen.

She is not an avowed feminist, even though she pays attention to balance and promotes women both in her ministerial ranks and in her closest team. Did it bother her to send an older man instead of a young woman to Brussels as Austria's Commissioner? She thinks about it and answers in her usual matter-of-fact manner: "Unfortunately, none of the women in question were able to secure a majority in Parliament, and we unanimously voted for Johannes Hahn. In the end, experience spoke in his favor."

EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn


"Unfortunately, I can no longer go anywhere without being recognized"
Brigitte Bierlein is slowly getting used to her new and changed life. The personal protection as well as the celebrities: "Unfortunately, I can no longer go anywhere without being recognized. But people's reactions are consistently friendly and appreciative." She makes public appearances confidently, without her partner accompanying her.

Her vacation this year has been canceled due to her duties: a week in Greece in October was actually planned, but she waves it off: "I'm not someone who needs a vacation anyway." She has always enjoyed sailing, she was "the jumper. The one who jumps ahead with the line when mooring." Just like in life.

"At some point, that's enough"
She would have retired as President of the Constitutional Court next January. Could she imagine making her experience available to a new government? Perhaps as Minister of Justice? "Please no! I have achieved so much in my life. At some point it will be good. And I have so many interests and honorary posts that I'm sure I won't get bored."

(Bild: Reinhard Holl)

The lucky cat is still waving. According to Schallenberg, the battery lasts six months. For Brigitte Bierlein, this is exactly the period in which she would like to hand over her office again. That would be the end of November. So the cat will probably need a new battery after all?

Edda Graf, Kronen Zeitung

This article has been automatically translated,
read the original article here.

Chancellor Bierlein with heart, brain and a great sense of humor (2024)
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