October 27, 2009 / 12:16 PM / 8 years ago

Austria to name science minister as EU commissioner

* Conservative minister chosen to join next EU Commission

* Grand coalition parties compromised on nominee

VIENNA, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Austria will nominate the conservative minister for science and research, Johannes Hahn, as its member in the next European Union executive Commission, the government decided on Tuesday.

The decision follows weeks of debate among Austria’s “grand coalition” of centre-left and centre-right mainstream parties.

The conservative People’s Party’s first choice had been former finance minister Wilhelm Molterer while the Social Democrat chancellor supported giving a further term to current Austrian Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Under the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, ratified by all members except the Czech Republic, each of the bloc’s 27 member countries can nominate a commissioner to whom the commission president assigns a post.

The commissioners face hearings at the European Parliament, which then votes to accept or reject the whole Commission.

Hahn, born 1957, has been the minister responsible for Austria’s universities since 2007.

One of his main tasks was to defend Austrian quotas limiting the number of foreign medical students, designed to stem a rising influx of students from neighbouring Germany.

He convinced the European Commission, which had been trying to lift the quota, to suspend its efforts and give Austria more time to provide evidence why the ban was necessary to protect its public health system.

His nomination for the Commission comes several days into sit-ins at several universities in Vienna, where students demonstrated against underfunding and changes in curriculums.

Before becoming a full-time politician, Hahn was chief executive of Austrian betting and gambling group Novomatic. He has a PhD in philosophy. (Reporting by Boris Groendahl; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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