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Benita Ferrero-Waldner

JUDr.Benita Ferrero-Waldner (born September 5 1948) is the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy and an Austrian diplomat and politician. She is a member of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).


Born in Salzburg, she took her matura exams in 1966 and then studied law, receiving a doctorate from the University of Salzburg in 1970. Until 1983 she worked in the private sector. Only in 1984 did she enter the diplomatic service. One of her most influential positions was Chef de protocole for Secretary General Boutros-Ghali at the United Nations in New York.

From 1995 until 2000 she served as Staatssekretärin in two governments led by Social Democrats Franz Vranitzky and Viktor Klima. When Wolfgang Schüssel became Chancellor of Austria early in 2000 he made Ferrero-Waldner his Minister for Foreign Affairs, a position she held until October 2004, when she was succeeded by Ursula Plassnik.

After the G8-Summit in Genoa (July 2001), Ferrero-Waldner was criticized by members of the Publixtheatre Caravan for allegedly not helping them after they had been arrested by Italian police.

In January 2004 it was announced that Ferrero-Waldner would run for Federal President to succeed Thomas Klestil in July 2004. Her candidature was supported by the Austrian People's Party; her only opponent was Heinz Fischer. However, she lost the election on April 25.

In late July 2004 Ferrero-Waldner was nominated the successor of Franz Fischler as Austria's European Commissioner. She took office on November 22. Her portfolio is Foreign Affairs and European Neighbourhood Policy.

As the EU's External Affairs Commissioner, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner is credited with being the key diplomat in the July 24, 2007 release of 5 Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor imprisoned by Libya. They had been held more than 8 years on charges of purposefully infecting children with HIV, and have continued to profess their innocence. The commissioner made many trips to Libya and met with the prisoners regularly. She also worked to improve conditions for children infected with HIV/Aids.

Sri Lankan civil war

Ferrero-Waldner met with officials from the United States, Japan, and Norway in Brussels, Belgium on September 12, 2006 to discuss the Sri Lankan civil war. She announced that the officials had gotten "signals from the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, to come to talks unconditionally. The meeting should take place urgently, at the beginning of October in Oslo."

Ferrero-Waldner acknowledged that brokering peace was a "huge challenge, we want both sides back to the table." She also revealed that the EU plans to send human rights experts to Sri Lanka to assist the government.

Private life

From 1974 until 1983 Waldner was married to Wolfgang Sterr, a Bavarian high school teacher. However, their marriage ended in divorce. In 1993 Waldner married Francisco Ferrero Campos, a lecturer in Spanish and Latin American literature at the University of Vienna.

After her previous marriage had finally been annulled Ferrero-Waldner married her husband again in church in December 2003. Although the wedding was a private ceremony, the news was immediately leaked to the press. This, some of Ferrero-Waldner's critics claimed, was done intentionally to attract potential voters as the Austrian Federal President is directly elected and Austria is a predominantly Roman Catholic country rooted in tradition. The couple do not have any children.

Ferrero-Waldner's determinedly friendly smile has earned her the nickname Ferrero-Küsschen ("Ferrero Kiss"), after a sweet similar to Ferrero Rocher, produced by Ferrero for the Austrian, German and Swiss markets.


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