Brigitte Bierlein is Dead: Austria Mourns the Loss of its First Female Chancellor

PeopleOther ♦ Published: June 3, 2024; 22:45 ♦ (Vindobona)

Brigitte Bierlein, Austria's first female chancellor, has died at the age of 74. The Constitutional Court (VfGH) announced the news of her death, of which Bierlein had been a member for around 16 years. She succumbed to a short, serious illness. Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer paid tribute to Bierlein as an outstanding personality who had served the country faithfully in many functions.

Bierlein was a member of the Constitutional Court for many years and was Vice President for a long time. The office of President was followed by a move to the Chancellery. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / VfGH / Achim Bieniek [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Brigitte Bierlein is considered a “pioneer” in Austrian history. She was not only the first female head of government but also the first woman to head the Constitutional Court. Her career was characterized by extraordinary ambition and dedication to justice. After quickly completing her law studies and being appointed public prosecutor at the age of 28, she rose steadily through the ranks: She became Advocate General at the age of 41, Vice President at the Constitutional Court in 2003, and its President on January 1, 2018.

From the Constitutional Court to the Chancellery

As a result of the “Ibiza scandal”, she took over the leadership of a cabinet of experts in 2019 and led Austria through a politically turbulent phase until the new elections. Her level-headed and competent leadership was highly appreciated by the population. With the end of her chancellorship, Bierlein retired from public life.

Commitment and recognition

In addition to her professional duties, Bierlein was active in various social and cultural organizations for decades. She was involved in the Independent Victim Protection Commission against Abuse and Violence. She was Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Bundestheater-Holding and the Board of Trustees of the Forum Constitution Foundation. Her passion for theater and painting was widely known.

Reactions and tributes

After her death became known, there were numerous reactions from politics and society. Federal President Van der Bellen praised her role as “guardian of our constitution and first female Federal Chancellor” and emphasized her inspiring effect on future generations. Federal Chancellor Nehammer emphasized that Austria owed her a great debt of gratitude, especially for her leadership in difficult times.

Other political figures such as Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler, Vienna's Mayor Michael Ludwig, and former chancellors such as Sebastian Kurz and Andreas Babler also paid tribute to Bierlein's contribution to the Republic. They described her as a committed lawyer, an outstanding personality, and a role model for many women.

Reactions from the diplomatic community

There were also numerous expressions of sympathy from the diplomatic community in Vienna. The U.S. embassy, the embassies of Israel and the German ambassador Vito Cecere and Turkish ambassador Ozan Ceyhun, expressed their sadness at the loss of Brigitte Bierlein and paid tribute to her services and commitment to Austria.

A life in the service of justice

Bierlein leaves behind an impressive career and a lasting legacy. Her work as a lawyer and as Federal Chancellor has left a lasting mark on Austrian politics and justice. She will be remembered as a committed advocate of the rule of law. Austria mourns the loss of a great personality whose influence will extend far beyond her time in office.