What is the purpose of BRAC

Christian Konrad - or: From power as a means to an end

With the ex-Raiffeisen General Advocate, the government has made one of the most influential people in the republic a refugee coordinator.

Christian Konrad actually wanted to go on vacation in his summer house on the Croatian island of Brač. He had only been there a few days when the call came. Reinhold Mitterlehner asked if he could imagine becoming the government's refugee coordinator. Konrad thought for a moment - and went home.

Officially, Konrad is supposed to start his new job before October 1st, when the constitutional law comes into force, which allows the Ministry of the Interior to intervene in municipal autonomy when distributing refugees. In fact, he is already in office. Preparations have to be made, the basics have to be clarified. This week the top government wants to determine what Konrad should be allowed to do. However, it can be assumed that the 72-year-old has long since announced what he wants to be allowed to do in this role.

Christian Konrad has never lacked self-awareness and power-consciousness. As advocate general of the Raiffeisen empire, which includes banks, industrial companies and the media, he was revered, hated and feared. For 18 years, from 1994 to 2012, he was one of the most mysterious and influential people in the republic.

In the asylum system, the Lower Austrian should now ensure that Traiskirchen is relieved and that all refugees get accommodation. The top government announced that it would be the interface between the federal, state, local and NGOs. Werner Faymann highlighted Konrad's experience in management, in the real estate industry and in zoning. That is what matters, said the Chancellor.

Many friends

Above all, Konrad qualifies something else for this job: He maintains a dense network of relationships and friendships across all political camps - with the exception of the FPÖ. “Service is service, and schnapps is schnapps,” he likes to say. But of course most of the contacts have a professional background. You need each other, so to speak. Christian Konrad can get people to help him. With effort or money. Or both. Still. Three years ago he only retired from the front row. He remained on the supervisory board of many companies. "Konrad is not a ruler," he once said in a "date" interview about himself. "I work markets and I know a lot of people."

Conrad is a Christian socialist, closely linked to the ÖVP and the Church. He has been an honorary citizen of Mariazell since he did his best for the basilica. Among other things, he is known to cultural workers as President of the Friends of the Albertina. This and his commitment to Caritas, to Father Sporschill and to refugee families who are trying to get a residence permit in Austria, also earned him recognition in left-wing (artist) circles.

Party political considerations did not play a role in Konrad's appointment, assured Faymann. He is the right person for the job. In this case, the Chancellor did not need the sanctuary of the SPÖ. It is known that Konrad has a good connection to the Vienna City Hall. Michael Häupl's joy came as no surprise: “Finally a sensible decision. That is a ray of hope for Traiskirchen. "

Dispute with Schönborn and Pröll

But there is also the other Christian Konrad, the tough, the merciless. This trait comes out when someone disappoints them. Or if what has been agreed does not hold up. In 2010 he told the “Presse am Sonntag” that he made decisions “always without regard to personal relationships”. "The word got around, so everyone knows where they stand with me."

Christoph Schönborn will be able to confirm that. As chairman of the Our St. Stephen's Cathedral Association, Konrad organized a substantial sum for the renovation from 2006 to 2011. But then there were differences about the dimensions of the construction project. The Viennese cardinal is said to have suddenly changed his mind, contrary to the original agreement. Annoyed, Konrad resigned from all functions.

He also has a complicated friendship with Erwin Pröll. There was always talk of a competitive relationship in the ÖVP, of two power people who are not dissimilar. In 2010, Pröll wanted to be a candidate for the federal presidency and asked Raiffeisen for support. But Konrad refused: A Federal President Pröll would be counterproductive for Josef Pröll's ambitions for chancellor, who was then ÖVP chairman. Pröll, the uncle, is said to hold that against him to this day.

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("Die Presse", print edition, August 26, 2015)