Karas set to take over from Strasser

Othmar Karas may succeed Ernst Strasser as leader of the Austrian People’s Party’s (ÖVP) delegation in the European Parliament (EP).Strasser decided to resign as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) yesterday (Sun) after investigative journalists of the Sunday Times revealed he was willing to lobby on behalf of financial sector companies in the EP. The British newspaper published a video showing Strasser holding negotiations with the reporters who claimed to represent a bank.The journalists contacted 60 MEPs to ask for help in postponing the deadline by which investment banks must implement new, tighter regulations. Three MEPs, including Strasser, got back to the team of writers, according to the report. The Sunday Times said Strasser accepted a fee of 100,000 Euros for his services.The former Austrian interior minister announced his resignation yesterday, but also branded the occurrences as a “political campaign against me.”Strasser surprisingly stepped down as interior minister after four years in 2004 to become active in the corporate sector. The right-winger angered political opponents by introducing strict immigration rules during his term. An extensive reform of the Austrian police was also carried out during his term as federal interior minister.Strasser made a comeback into politics as front runner of the ÖVP in the EP elections in 2009. He was controversially named the head of the party’s delegation in the EP in Strasbourg although Karas received significantly more preference votes. Now Karas is expected to succeed his rival as leader of the ÖVP’s group of MEPs. ÖVP General Secretary Fritz Kaltenegger announced today party whip Karlheinz Kopf will meet with Karas to offer him the position.Strasser meanwhile faces criminal charges for his alleged lobbying activities. The Austrian anti-corruption prosecution and a special team of investigators assigned by the EP have started to examine the accusations.