Johannes Hahn

Johannes Hahn
European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
Assumed office
1 November 2014
President Jean-Claude Juncker
Preceded by Štefan Füle (Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy)
European Commissioner for Regional Policy
In office
9 February 2010  1 November 2014
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Paweł Samecki
Succeeded by Corina Crețu
Personal details
Born (1957-12-02) 2 December 1957
Vienna, Austria
Political party People's Party
Children 1
Alma mater University of Vienna

Johannes Hahn (born 2 December 1957) is an Austrian politician, who since November 2014 is Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations.[1] He previously served as European Commissioner for Regional Policy in the second Barroso Commission, succeeding Benita Ferrero-Waldner as Austria's EU representative.

During his term as EU Commissioner for Regional Policy (February 2010-November 2014) Johannes Hahn implemented the most ambitious and comprehensive reform of EU Regional Policy so far. The main achievement of the reform is the transformation of Regional Policy from a subvention into a genuine investment policy, closely linked with EU economic governance and macro-economic conditions. This allows e.g. to modify programmes to support key structural reforms.

The reform refocuses investments in the real economy and on priority areas which create sustainable jobs and foster growth such as the low carbon economy, support for small and medium enterprises, innovation & research, education and training. The introduction of clearly defined conditions as well as a better evaluation system make sure that the principle of "better spending" is actually safeguarded.

Based on the new regulation, most European regions have developed so called smart specialisation strategies to identify their particular strengths and potentials as the basis for investments.

Despite cuts in the overall EU budget, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn succeeded to keep the high level of financial support for strategic investments in the new period (2014-2020): Funding for regional and cohesion policy in 2014-2020 amounts to 351,8 bn EUR. The reform, endorsed by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament with overwhelming majority and strongly supported also by stakeholders and the Committee of the Regions, established Hahn's reputation as a "forward looking, bold reformer". More detailed information on the fundamental reform of Regional Policy can be found here: Cohesion Policy Reform in 10 points [2] The Reform of Cohesion Policy [3]

In his new portfolio, Commissioner Hahn launched,[4] together with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, a comprehensive reform of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), as mandated by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.[5]

Dr. Hahn is a member of the Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP) and the European People's Party (EPP).[6][7] In February 2011, renewed allegations of plagiarism on his doctoral thesis emerged. In November 2011 Johannes Hahn was cleared of all allegations regarding "plagiarism" in a comprehensive analysis of his thesis. The analytical study was mandated by the University of Vienna and carried out by independent international scientific experts.

Personal details

Hahn studied at the University of Vienna, graduating with a doctorate in philosophy in 1987.

Dr. Hahn has one son, born in 1988.

Political life

Johannes Hahn began his political career in the youth organisation of the Austrian People's Party (JVP), where he was chairman of the Vienna group from 1980 to 1985. Following this, he was active in the Austrian Federal Youth Council (ÖBJR) and the General Secretariat of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). In 1992 Hahn became Secretary of the Austrian People’s Party in Vienna and, in 1996, he became a member of the City Council in Vienna. After serving as a member of the supervisory board at Novomatic, an online gaming and casino management system firm, between 1997–2003, he was appointed CEO in 2003. From 2003 to 2006 he was a city councillor without portfolio. Since 2004 Hahn has been Chairman of the Austrian People's Party in Vienna and, as such, was the party frontrunner in the October 2005 regional elections in which an increase in votes for the ÖVP (and a slight loss in votes for the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ)) made the ÖVP the second strongest party in the regional parliament, with 18 seats. Hahn's appointment to the European Commission meant that he had to resign his position as chairman of the Austrian People's Party in Vienna, as commissioners of Barroso Commission II are not allowed to hold political office nationally, although party membership is permitted.[8]

Minister of Science and Research

Johannes Hahn was sworn in as Federal Minister of Science and Research on 11 January 2007 (Archived 2 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.), initially as part of the Austrian Federal Government under Gusenbauer until 2008, then from 2 December 2008 as part of the Faymann government, in which he also was Minister of Justice for an interim period until Judge Claudia Bandion-Ortner, who had been nominated by the ÖVP, could be sworn in on 15 January 2009.[9]

"Fachhochschulen" (Universities of Applied Sciences)

During Hahn's term of office, the National Council of Austria adopted on 4 July 2007 an amendment to the federal public service regulations to the effect that Fachhochschule graduates are to be treated as being equal to university graduates with regard to salary schemes in the Austrian civil service on a federal level, thus giving all graduates of degree programmes at "Fachhochschulen" completely equal status to their university graduate counterparts in the civil service.[10] In addition to this, all students enrolled in Austrian "Fachhochschule" study programmes have been recognised as full members of the Austrian Students' Association (ÖH) since December 2007.[11] In a National Council session on 7 November 2007 the status of "part-time teaching staff" was established as a separate staff category in the University of Applied Sciences Studies Act (FHStG).[12] In April 2008, Hahn announced the first ever budget increase in the history of Austrian "Fachhochschulen". Starting in the academic year 2009/10, all "Fachhochschule" institutions will, unconditionally and without differentiation, receive an average of 13.7 per cent more per university place than was previously the case.[13]

Towards equality

One of Hahn's aims has been to raise public awareness of the great number of successful women in science and research in Austria by means of the so-called "Visibility Measures" which were launched in 2008 by the Ministry of Science and Research Archived 10 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. This included media training and getting the media to focus more on reporting on the scientific activities of women.[14] The 2008 film "Wissenschafterinnen im Film" (“Women Scientists in Film”) and a film script competition on the topic of women scientists in 2009 were intended to widen the range of what film and TV have to offer young women in the form of inspiration and information for planning their future careers.[15] One result of media training measures in 2008 and 2009 was presented on 14 May 2009: a DVD, available online, showing interviews with some of the Austrian women scientists who took part in such measures, more than 100 women in total.[16] The fForte Coaching Programme has been providing project training and personal development programmes for women for several years, which according to Hahn will make a crucial difference to their career opportunities in the fields of technology, natural sciences and social sciences. The range of modules on offer covers self-determination, conflict management, project management, communication and team processes, as well as information events on EU funding programmes.[17] In spring 2009, Hahn gave his personal assessment of these programmes to promote women, finding them very good in part, but stating at the same time that he was not yet satisfied with the results. The special support provided for preparing for the entrance examinations for studying medicine had, however, already shown considerable success. He was hopeful that more progress could be made by means of the composition of appeal commissions.[18] To implement the ministry's own objectives of promoting women, in October 2009 Hahn appointed two women scientists to management positions, for example: Sabine Ladstaetter, from Carinthia, was appointed the new director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute (ÖAI) and Irene Forstner-Mueller was appointed head of the Institute's Cairo branch and its excavations.[19]

Austria as a location for research

On 28 October 2009 Hahn opened the new Vienna Institute of BioTechnology (VIBT) at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), following a two-year construction period. This provides a total of 24,000 square metres for the internationally respected work of the Vienna BOKU: for university and private research, development and training. Hahn describes the VIBT as yet another milestone in the development of Vienna as a location for research.[20]

In July 2009 the third phase of GEN-AU, the Austrian genome research programme, was started, funded until 2012 by the Ministry of Science and Research to the amount of 100 million euro. The first two phases comprised 58 projects, giving rise to approximately 350 scientific publications and approximately 30 patents. Amongst those receiving support within this framework are such well-known names as Giulio Superti-Furga, the molecular biologist Josef Penninger and the biochemist Rudolf Zechner from Graz. In the third phase the focus is on system biology approaches.[21] According to Hahn, GEN-AU has established itself as the engine of Austria's competitiveness in top-level research.[22]

In addition to support for applied and economically oriented research in the field of climate research, Hahn has called for more resources for basic and adaptation research in Austria, which should be independent of financial interests and thus be sustainable.[23]

Promoting young scientists

In 2007 a young research programme entitled Sparkling Science was started by the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research, in which scientists work side by side with young people, who are not just observers but actively take over and work independently on parts of the research. This programme will run until 2017. By autumn 2009 there were already over 100 projects in which scientists and schoolchildren had developed joint research plans, as many as 13,000 schoolchildren had been involved in this scientific work, and Hahn's ministry had invested over eight million euro. Projects ranged from small-scale school projects as part of project weeks, for example, to large-scale research plans at university level.[24] The aim of "Sparkling Science" is to get schoolchildren interested in science and research as early as possible.[25] In 2009 this support programme even enabled schoolchildren at a technical school in Innsbruck and the grammar school Akademisches Gymnasium Innsbruck to publish internationally their own research findings on a basic research topic relating to the composition of the primordial soup. In 2009, Hahn awarded cheques for 5000 euro each to a total of 14 prize-winning projects. Since these school research projects by and large not only have scientific but also economic potential, schools which carry out a "Sparkling Science" project as of 2010 will receive a total of 11 million euro in financial support, calculated over 4 years. Back in December 2007, this research project had initially been launched with a planned annual budget of only one million.[26]

Public relations for science and research

Amongst other things, in his work Hahn has placed a particular focus on improving public relations for people and institutions working in and around the fields of science and research. Numerous campaigns, events and projects have promoted “Children's University” projects, the "Sparkling Science" programme, the "Visibility Measures" to raise public awareness of the work done by women scientists, the fForte Coaching Programme, the “Long Night of Research”, as well as various awards, such as the Wittgenstein Prize. Hahn has never tired of reminding the institutions within his remit of their social responsibility. His aim has been to bring more researchers into the public eye and, for example, publicly called upon the Austrian Academy of Sciences to "come out of their ivory tower".[27][28]

The "Long Night of Research" event

The “Long Night of Research” was re-introduced under Minister Hahn after an interval of several years. He sees this event as an important way to communicate enthusiasm for and information about research and to provide a platform on which researchers can show to the wider public their work and their commitment. At a series of events in November 2009, the number of locations involved increased to 99 and, all in all, there were 570 venues in the towns of Dornbirn, Graz, Innsbruck, Krems/Tulln, Linz, Salzburg and Vienna, attracting a total of 366,000 visitors across the country.[29][30]

Award of Excellence

In 2008 Hahn created the "Award of Excellence" for the best doctoral theses in Austria, as a way of recognising the work of young scientists and making the public more aware of their activities. In the first year, 30 young scientists were paid tribute to in this way, increasing to 36 in 2009. Each of them received 2,500 euro in prize money. Nominations for these awards were made by the vice-chancellors of Austrian universities. 89 per cent of those receiving the award were recipients of student grants or scholarships and, in 2009, half of these prize-winning theses were written in English.[31][32]

Scientific Book of the Year

In co-operation with Austrian booksellers, Hahn launched an initiative in autumn 2007 to select the best scientific book of the year,[33] with the aim of improving the image of research by better communicating what it has achieved and what it does.[34] A range of books are nominated by a panel of judges consisting of experts from the fields of science, media, the book trade and media business, educational institutions, libraries, museums and public administration. Voting takes place on the Internet or by means of voting cards available in public libraries.[35]

Wittgenstein Prize

Hahn has also continued the tradition of awarding the Wittgenstein Prize, a science prize with the highest money value in Austria, which attracts a great deal of media attention. He has referred to this prize as the “Austro-Nobel Prize”, pointing out that the prize money of 1.5 million euro is tied to research activities in the following six years, thus ensuring a focussed investment in future research work on the basis of excellence.[36]

International relations

Membership of ESO

Astronomers have been calling for Austria to join the European Southern Observatory (ESO) for over thirty years, as international co-operation is necessary for the construction and use of large telescopes, but they repeatedly failed in their efforts due to a lack of understanding for basic research within Austrian politics. It was only with Hahn as Minister of Science that Austria could finally become, on 1 July 2008, the 14th member of this research association, which was founded in 1962.[37] Following his decision in April 2008, Hahn himself stated that joining ESO had been one of the most significant political decisions in the field of research for 20 years, from which not only astronomers but also physicists, mathematicians, software specialists and high-tech companies would benefit.[38] At the beginning of 2009, contracts had been formulated that will benefit Austrian scientists to the total amount of 5 million euro.[39] According to Sabine Schindler, Head of the Astro- and Particle Physics Institute at the University of Innsbruck, a veritable boom has established itself in the field of astronomy, which will certainly continue for ten to twenty years.[40]

International exchange

In the field of science Austria maintains close relations with China, one of the rising stars in the world of science, in particular with Fudan University in Shanghai, one of the leading universities in China. Hahn emphasised the importance of this partnership during a visit in September 2009. In fact Austria is the European country most closely connected with Fudan University, with 26 partnerships, a level of co-operation only exceeded by USA and Japan.[41]

Withdrawing from the CERN project

During a parliamentary sub-committee debate on the Austrian science and research budget for 2009 and 2010, Minister Hahn announced in May 2009 that he wanted to end Austria'’s 50-year membership of CERN as of 2010 because the costs were too high. The 16 million euro annual membership fee tied to the CERN project as much as 70 per cent of the total Austrian resources available for membership of research associations and, according to Hahn, blocked more promising forms of research co-operation that would be essential for strengthening Austria’'s profile and presence on the international stage, as well as its competitiveness. It would be important for the future to participate in projects in the fields of social and human sciences, life and medical sciences, material sciences, as well as physics and astronomy.[42] Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann publicly spoke out against a withdrawal from CERN.[43] In any case, an actual withdrawal would have also required a decision of the National Council.[44]

Science and the Arts

In autumn 2009, Hahn launched a new programme, “forMuse”, to support research in and on museums and made two million euro available for that purpose. In a first stage, this financed eleven of the 82 projects submitted. According to Hahn, the focus is initially to be placed on projects from the “big museums”, such as the anthropological collection in the Vienna Natural History Museum, a study on copper corrosion in manuscripts by the Austrian National Library, or the expropriation of motor vehicles under the Nazi regime by the Vienna Technical Museum. Smaller projects will be the focus of a second stage in the programme.[45]

Due to the water damage in early summer 2009 that affected the Vienna Albertina, parts of the Albertina collection of prints and drawings were returned to the Academy of Fine Arts, an emergency measure on the part of the Academy after the Albertina storage depot had to be evacuated. A room in the library of the Academy was equipped with storage facilities to house the collection and alarm systems were fitted. Hahn contributed 35,000 euro towards this adaptation from the newly created ministerial reserve funds.[46] In the meantime, the art works have been returned to the underground storage facilities of the Albertina.[47]

Student grants 2007–09

During Hahn’s term of office, two amendments to the Law on Financial Support for Students were adopted (in 2007 and 2008), with a budgetary volume of 25 million euro in additional costs per year for financial support for students. The total budget in the Ministry of Science for student financial support is 199.5 million euro (based on 2008 figures) and 49,500 student grants were approved in the academic year 2008/09. Expenditure on financial support for students has increased from 105 million to almost 200 million euro since 2000.

Specifically, this means that student grants were increased in 2007 by 12 per cent (maximum monthly grant 679 euro). In 2008 the limit on the amount that anyone receiving a student grant could earn in addition to their grant was raised to 8000 euro; the parental income level was raised by 20 per cent; study grants for students with children were increased (i.e. by raising age limits and a supplementary payment of 720 euro for each child); there were improvements for disabled students, as well as mobility grants – a complete course of study abroad was financed for the first time. In 2009 there was an increase of 33 per cent in performance-related grants (i.e. a further 2 million euro, or 2,800 more grants).[48][49][50][51][52][53][54]

Financing research

Following uncertainty regarding the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) budget in spring 2009, in autumn of the same year Hahn proposed introducing legislation on research financing that would regulate by law the budget for state expenditure on research until 2020. Public expenditure on research and development would increase by 2.5 million to 5 million per year by 2020, thus building confidence and developing and consolidating Austria as a research location.[55] Hahn particularly emphasised the importance of making a combined effort on all fronts, including the integration of educational policy, since education and training constitute the main pre-requisites of a competitive research location.[56]

European Commissioner for Regional Policy

In November 2009 he was nominated by the Austrian Federal Government as member of the European Commission. President Barroso appointed him European Commissioner for Regional Policy.[57] He was twice appointed Acting Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship in Viviane Reding's stead, from 19 April 2014 – 25 May 2014 while she was on electoral campaign leave for the 2014 elections to the European Parliament and from 1 July 2014 – 16 July 2014 after she took up her seat.[58][59]

During his term as EU Commissioner for Regional Policy (February 2010-November 2014) Johannes Hahn implemented the most ambitious and comprehensive reform of EU Regional Policy so far. The main achievement of the reform is the transformation of Regional Policy from a subvention- into a genuine investment policy, closely linked with EU economic governance and macro-economic conditions. This allows e.g. to modify programmes to support key structural reforms.

The reform refocuses investments in the real economy and on priority areas which create sustainable jobs and foster growth such as the low carbon economy, support for small and medium enterprises, innovation & research, education and training. The introduction of clearly defined conditions as well as a better evaluation system make sure that the principle of "better spending" is actually safeguarded. Countries and regions will have to announce upfront what objectives they intend to achieve with the available resources and identify precisely how they will measure progress towards those goals. This will allow better monitoring and more focused investments.

Based on the new regulation, European regions have developed so called smart specialisation strategies to identify their particular strengths and potentials as the basis for investments. The adoption of smart specialistion strategy was an ex-ante conditionality for the approval of regional programs for the period 2014-2020.

Despite cuts in the overall EU budget, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn succeeded to keep the high level of financial support for strategic investments in the new period (2014-2020): Funding for regional and cohesion policy in 2014-2020 amounts to 351,8 billion Euro. Taking into account the national contribution of member states, and the leverage effect of financial instruments, the overall impact of investments is likely to be about 600 billion Euro.

Parts of the reform were already implemented in the last year of the Barroso term. Thanks to increased flexibility, allowing reprogramming of structural funds, the reformed Cohesion Policy paid also an important role in overcoming coping with the economic crisis. Measures in this context were e.g. reallocation of unused funds for education, training and employment as well as for providing urgently needed liquidity for enterprises .

The reform, endorsed by the Council and European Parliament with overwhelming majority and strongly supported also by stakeholders and the Committee of the Regions, established Hahn's reputation as a "forward looking, bold reformer".

More detailed information on the fundamental reform of Regional Policy can be downloaded under the following links:

Cohesion Policy Reform in 10 points:[60]

The Reform of Cohesion Policy:[61]

Discussion about his PhD thesis

In May 2007 media scholar Stefan Weber accused Hahn of "absolutely sloppy" work regarding his PhD thesis, and claims that Hahn copied numerous pages from other books without citing them correctly.[62] The suspected plagiarism was not confirmed by an expert committee from the University of Zurich that looked into the matter.[63] However, according to Herbert Hrachovec, professor of philosophy at Vienna University, the Swiss experts only evaluated a small part of Hahn's dissertation.[64] In June 2009 Hrachovec published an evaluation of the first hundred pages of the paper and claims that the paper contains dozens of uncited paragraphs, which question the assessability of the dissertation.[65] The University of Vienna looked into the matter but decided not to start an examination procedure, saying that Hahn never presented "other people's intellectual property" as his own.[66]

In February 2011 Green parliamentarian Peter Pilz commissioned Stefan Weber to re-assess Hahn's PhD thesis.[67] End of May, the expert group published its findings, listing 76 cases of plagiarism, which together account for at least 17.2% of Hahn's 254-page doctoral thesis. Hahn denied the charges and claimed they were "politically motivated, hardly surprising and not relevant."[68][69]



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  2. Cohesion Policy Reform in 10 points European Commission. 19 November 2013.
  3. The Reform of Cohesion Policy European Commission. 2014.
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  39. Hochleistungsrechner für Wiener Astronomen Der Standard 21 January 2009.
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  41. Asiatische Connection Der Standard 29 September 2009.
  42. press release 7 May 2009.
  43. Faymann sagt Nein zum Ausstieg. Retrieved 18 May 2009
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  47. Kunstwert-Rücklagerung abgeschlossen Der Standard 15 December 2009.
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  60. Abgeschrieben? Debatte über Hahns Doktorarbeit – Zitierregeln damals noch anders? ORF 24 May 2007.
  61. Newspaper of the University of Vienna – online: Hahns Dissertation ist „nicht plagiatsverdächtig“. 11 June 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2010
  62. Die Begutachtungsfrist und der Minister Herbert Hrachovec. 14 August 2008, Retrieved 5 January 2010
    a) tabulation of critical sections
    b) direct comparison of selected paragraphs of Hahn's work with those of the original authors: ,
  63. Evalutation report regarding Hahn's dissertation by Herbert Hrachovec, html-document Herbert Hrachovec. 1 June 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2010
  64. Nicht gerupft, sondern mit neuen Federn 27 October 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2010
  65. Hahns Doktorarbeit wieder auf Prüfstand. In:, 22 February 2011, Retrieved 23 February 2011
  66. Gutachten: Johannes Hahn hat sich Doktortitel "erschlichen". In:, 23 May 2011, Retrieved 27 May 2011
  67. Austrian commissioner faces plagiarism accusations. In:, 26 May 2011, Retrieved 27 May 2011
Political offices
Preceded by
Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Austrian European Commissioner
Preceded by
Paweł Samecki
European Commissioner for Regional Policy
Succeeded by
Corina Crețu
Preceded by
Štefan Füle
as European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
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