Raiffeisen confirms Pröll talks

A Raiffeisen manager has fuelled speculations that former People’s Party (ÖVP) boss Josef Pröll could join the finance industry giant.Erwin Hameseder, head of Raiffeisenlandesbank Lower Austria-Vienna, said today (Weds) representatives of the bank discussed future options with the agricultural economist.Pröll retired from all his political functions – vice chancellor, finance minister and party leader – earlier this month after suffering two thromboses and pulmonary embolism within weeks. Doctors appealed to the politician to scale down his schedule to avoid worsening his condition further before he decided to leave politics completely. The ÖVP board unanimously elected Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger as new chairman and vice chancellor.Hameseder revealed today that it was Pröll who got in touch with his bank. Raiffeisenlandesbank Lower Austria-Vienna is part of Raiffeisenzentralbank (RZB), one of Austria’s biggest private employers. The bank has always had close ties with the conservative ÖVP. RZB’s international operations are managed by Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) which is headed by Herbert Stepic. Walter Rothensteiner is CEO of RZB.Hameseder explained that Pröll told Raiffeisen officials he “is not ready yet” for a new role due to his fragile health. “There’s no time pressure, neither from our side nor from himself,” Hameseder said, adding that his bank’s doors “are open” for Pröll.Pröll was environment and agriculture minister before succeeding Wilhelm Molterer as ÖVP chief following the party’s poor performance in the general elections in 2008. The ballot was held earlier than planned after Molterer decided to quit the partnership with the Social Democrats (SPÖ).Pröll’s reputation as politician and future businessman is considered to be excellent after he referred to “health warnings signs” when he announced his resignation from politics some weeks ago. In what was regarded as an attack on retired ÖVP members of the European Parliament (MEP) Ernst Strasser and Hella Ranner, Pröll deplored a “lack of decency among some politicians.” He also warned that the number of people being fed up with politics in general was increasing due to this and the “current standstill” when it comes to starting urgently needed reforms.Pröll – regarded as a representative of the ÖVP’s liberal branch – has however also been criticised for not being courageous enough towards the conservative circles in his own party when it came to kicking off drastic measures regarding the country’s bloated bureaucracy.His own popularity and the standing of his party worsened after the SPÖ-ÖVP administration announced a string of tax increases last October. Chancellor Werner Faymann’s Social Democrats (SPÖ) managed to stay clear of the ÖVP in polls, while the Freedom Party (FPÖ) jumped to second place. The right-wing party of Heinz-Christian Strache came third in the federal election of 2008. Faymann managed to overtake Pröll in the months before his resignation by calling for Europe-wide measures against stock market speculators, rich bankers and businesses and a tax on financial transactions.