Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Vranitzky, Franz (1937–)

Austrian banker, finance minister (1984–1986), and federal chancellor (1986–1997). Born on 4 October 1937 in Vienna, Franz Vranitzky studied international trade and commerce at the College of Commerce and graduated in 1960. In 1961 he joined the research staff of the Austrian Central Bank. In 1969 he received a doctorate in economics.

Active in Social Democratic politics since his student days, in 1970 Vranitzky became a financial advisor in the Ministry of Finance. In 1976 he was named deputy chairman of the board of directors of Creditanstalt Bankverein and in 1981 chairman of Länderbank. In 1984 Chancellor Fred Sinowatz appointed Vranitzky minister of finance. Following Sinowatz's resignation, in June 1986 Vranitzky became federal chancellor.

Vranitzky's tenure as chancellor was marked by strained Austro-American and Austro-Israeli relations over the 1986 election of Kurt Waldheim as president of Austria. Vranitzky continued Austria's policy of pursuing cordial economic and political relations with the Soviets and allowing Austria to serve as a transit point for emigrating Soviet Jews. He traveled to Moscow for a summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in October 1988 and oversaw Austria's hosting of the 1986–1989 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Vienna Review Conference. In September 1989 Austria opened its borders to thousands of citizens from the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) who were trying to reach the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) via Hungary, thereby helping to precipitate the collapse of the East German regime.

From 1989 on, Vranitzky was increasingly preoccupied with adjusting to the implications for Austria, both positive and negative, of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from the former Yugoslavia and other ex-communist states poured into the country, giving rise to a political backlash centered in Jörg Haider's Freedom Party of Austria. On the other hand, Austria stepped up its integration with Western Europe and moved out from under the constraints on its external freedom of action imposed by the 1955 Austrian State Treaty. Austria successfully negotiated entrance into the European Union (EU), which it formally joined on 1 January 1995. In addition to leading Austria's drive for EU membership, Vranitzky forged a new relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as Austria joined the Partnership for Peace program in February 1995. Vranitzky resigned the chancellorship in January 1997. That same year, he was named special envoy of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe to Albania.

John Van Oudenaren


Further Reading
Vranitzky, Franz. Politische Erinnerungen [Political Memoirs]. Vienna: Zsolnay, 2004.
 

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