Forget Foreign Affairs - the ministerial portfolio that requires the greatest application of careful diplomacy, verbal subtlety and (yes!) the occasional foray into doublespeak is Finance. An unfortunate choice of words need not do long term damage with other countries: a couple of contrite speeches and apologies should unruffle feathers. Not so with the flighty markets where rumours and the herd mentality rule.
All of which makes the Austria's choice of Finance Minister - Maria Fekter - the more puzzling. As Interior Minister, she had a reputation as a hardliner on immigration. As Finance Minister, she's already notched up a number of international controversies despite being less than two years in the job.
Just this morning as the Cypriot bailout crisis deepens, she has announced that the European Central Bank will cut Cyprus off from liquidity unless the Cypriots agree to the bailout. Is she on the board of the ECB? I thought the Austrian representative was a chap called Ewald Nowotny?
She infuriated Italians last year when she suggested Italy might need a bailout - this at a very delicate time in the crisis when the hymn sheet everyone else was singing from basically contained the words "No Italian bailout", not least because Italy is Grade A TBTB - To Big to Bailout.
The Germans lambasted her last year too over comments on Greece when she appeared to suggest that Greece could be thrown out of the eurozone. Like talk of Italian bailouts, Grexit is a concept that Must Not Be Mentioned.
It gets worse. She has contemptuously spoken of the Greeks being lazy. Referring to the lack of implementation of certain measures requested by the Troika, she said that Greeks had been lying in their hammocks and now they'd fallen out.
She frets over negative attitudes towards bankers in Europe today, comparing criticism of them with anti-Jewish feeling before World War II that ultimately led to the Holocaust. I'm not joking, check sources 5 and 6.
She's been in the wars with Jean Claude Juncker having blurted out the conclusions of a euro-area Finance Ministers' meeting about bailout limits before Juncker, who was chairing the meeting, got a chance to announce them at a press conference. A furious Juncker cancelled his scheduled conference saying he was "against babbling".
She's also taken on French president Hollande in a full frontal attack, dismissing as nonense his approach to solving the eurozone debt crisis. "Growth financed by debt?", she said. "Those are the recipes from the day before yesterday. The arguments that France's new president Francois Hollande is putting forward again are nonsense and got us into this whole mess in the first place,"
Sometimes she's wrong, sometimes she's right. But even if one is right, there's a time, a place and a way of saying things. She seems to struggle with all of these criteria.
1. Emergency talks over Cyprus bailout crisis - RTÉ News
2. Austrian minister says Italy too may need bailout | Reuters
3. Germany chides Austrian minister's Greek comment | Athens News
4. Austrian Minister Says Greeks Fell Off Hammocks | Greek Reporter Europe
5. Austrian finance minister: plight of bankers like Holocaust | JPost | Israel News
6. Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter's comments about rich folks, banks & jews
7. Euro Spat Erupts as Fekter Upstages Juncker at Crisis Talks - Bloomberg
8. Hollande's euro arguments nonsense: Austria's Fekter | Reuters