Austrian minister Christine Aschbacher resigns after allegations of plagiarism in two theses

As ruling party the ÖVP’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis is being increasingly questioned here in Austria, this week has continued to not be a particularly good one for leader Sebastian Kurz.

Not after ÖVP member and Federal Minister for Labor, Family and Youth Christine Aschbacher resigned yesterday following allegations of plagiarism in a thesis submitted to the University of Applied Sciences in Wiener Neustadt, Austria.

The plagiarism accusations were leveled at Aschbacher by media scientist/journalist Stefan Weber, who accuses her of submitting a 2006 masters thesis that included plagiarized passages, quotations being used incorrectly, and grammatical errors that appeared and disappeared depending on whether parts of the thesis had originated in other sources.

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(**Watch video of oe24 interview with Weber below for more information).

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Weber, who is an expert on plagiarism, continued his allegations by stating a second thesis Aschbacher submitted to Slovakia’s the Technical University of Bratislava was similarly strewn with plagiarized elements, including sections of an uncited article from Forbes.

Soon after the accusations were brought to light, Aschbacher herself resigned with similar kinds of statements often heard from politicians around the world who want the spotlight off them — she was resigning “to protect my family”, while complaining about being on the receiving end of “political attacks”.

With Aschbacher overseeing labor policies, the situation places added strain on Chancellor Kurz’s government, which is currently governing in a country of only 8.9 million people and with over half a million of those people currently unemployed.

An additional 417,000 are on shorter-hours work.

Work that could ultimately end if the Austrian economy continues to suffer as it has been in the wake of numerous country-wide lockdowns mandated by Kurz’s government.

As SPÖ Federal Manager (Bundesgeschäftsführer) Christian Deutsch commented about the labor situation after Aschbacher’s resignation, “We expect that someone who is genuinely concerned about combating unemployment with concrete measures will quickly take over labor market policies. Someone who does not just pay lip service and make announcements.”

That criticism of Christine Aschbacher was similarly backed up by FPÖ chairman Norbert Hofer who stated the Austrian labor department needed an expert.

“Someone who will oppose further damage to the domestic labor market through wrong, exaggerated health policies with measures that are no longer justified”.

Meanwhile, it is likely the allegations of plagiarism leveled by Stefan Weber against Christine Aschbacher will now be looked into by both universities.

In a press release, Chancellor Kurz said Aschbacher’s replacement will be announced on Monday.

 

Michelle Topham