|Leader of the Austrian People's Party in the European Parliament|
1 July 1999 – 2019
|Member of the European Parliament|
|Assumed office |
1 July 1999
|Vice President of the European Parliament|
18 January 2012 – 30 June 2014
Gianni Pittella (acting)
|Member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee|
|Assumed office |
1 July 2014
|Born||24 December 1957|
Ybbs an der Donau, Austria
|Alma mater||University of Vienna|
University of St.Gallen
Othmar Karas (born 24 December 1957) is an Austrian politician who has been serving as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 1999. He is a member of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), which in turn affiliates with the European People's Party.
Karas sits on the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Special Committee on Tax Rulings and Other Measures Similar in Nature or Effect. Between 2012 and 2014, he was one of the vice presidents of the European Parliament. Since the 2019 elections, he has been again serving as one of its vice-presidents; in this capacity, he is part of the Parliament's leadership under President David Sassoli.
Karas has been a Member of the European Parliament since the 1999 European elections. He has since been serving on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. In the past, he has in served as a substitute for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and as member of the temporary committee on policy challenges and budgetary means of the enlarged Union 2007–2013. More recently, he was a member of the Special Committee on Tax Rulings and Other Measures Similar in Nature or Effect in 2015 and the Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion in 2016. In 2020, he also joined the Subcommittee on Tax Matters.
In the European Parliament, Karas has become one of the center-right's experts on financial regulation. As the rapporteur for the Capital Requirements Directive IV, he played a central role in the parliamentary implementation of capital requirements agreed in the Basel III accords. He helped negotiate a 2013 agreement on an EU-wide cap on bankers' bonuses. Alongside Liêm Hoang Ngoc, he later co-drafted a controversial 2014 report highlighting problems with the European Union-led bail-outs of Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland during the European debt crisis.
In addition to his committee assignments, Karas has been the chairman of the parliament's delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee since 2014. He previously serves as member of the delegation for relations with Japan and as substitute for the delegation for relations with the People's Republic of China.
Within his political bloc, the centre-right European People's Party Group, Karas served as the group's spokesperson on economic affairs from 2002 until 2004 and as vice-president and treasurer from 2004 until 2011. From 2011 until 2019, he led the ÖVP delegation within the EPP group.
In the 2009 European elections, the ÖVP leadership replaced Karas by Ernst Strasser as its lead candidate for the European Parliament; Strasser later had to resign as a consequence of the 2011 cash for influence scandal. Ahead of the 2014 European elections, the ÖVP re-nominated Karas as its lead candidate. At the time, he was considered by Austrian media as a possible successor to Johannes Hahn as Austrian nominee for European Commissioner.
Since the 2019 European Parliament election, Karas has been serving as one of its Vice-Presidents; in this capacity, he is part of the Parliament's leadership under President David Sassoli.
In 2021, Karas was appointed to the EPP group's task force for proposing changes to its rules of procedure to allow for “the possibility of the collective termination of membership of a group of Members rather than just individual membership”, alongside Esteban González Pons, Jan Olbrycht, Esther de Lange and Paulo Rangel.
Following the 2014 elections, Karas joined fellow MEPs Sven Giegold, Sylvie Goulard, Sophie in 't Veld and Alessia Mosca in an open letter aimed at exerting pressure on the President of the European Commission and national government leaders during the nominations process to improve the gender balance in the composition of the European Commission.
In 2020, Karas led an initiative of nearly 40 other EPP members who pushed to expel Tamás Deutsch from their parliamentary group after the latter had compared comments made by group leader Manfred Weber to the slogans of the Gestapo and Hungary's communist-era secret police; Deutsch was eventually suspended but not expelled from the group.
In 2005, EU parliamentarian Hans Peter Martin revealed that Karas collected thousands of euros of "daily allowance" of 262 euros a day, even though he was often only in Brussels for a few hours on those days or it was a matter of holiday weeks.
Karas is married to Dr. Christa Waldheim-Karas, daughter of Kurt Waldheim and Elisabeth Waldheim.