Culture, Media, Science
Commemorative Year 2005: Austria celebrates 60th anniversary of the Second Republic
On 27 April 2005, the official Austria celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Second Republic. On 27 April 1945 the provisional government headed by Karl Renner had proclaimed Austria’s independence.
The government held a special Council of Ministers at the Federal Chancellery, which was followed by a ceremony hosted by Federal President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel at Hofburg in Vienna.
Federal Chancellor Schüssel explicitly stated that the NS crimes should not be belittled. Those denying or speaking of the relativity of the “Holocaust killing millions of Jews and people with different ideologies and religions” did not fit into democratic institutions”.
The Federal Chancellor emphasised Austria’s role both as a victim and a perpetrator between 1938 and 1945. He also underlined the achievements of the post-war reconstruction generation. Federal President Fischer called for political responsibility. On 27 April 1945 the way had been paved for Austria’s democratic future. “In terms of sovereignty, on whose basis a very positive Austrian identity has developed“, Fischer said. ■
Remembrance of the NS victims – Austria honours Stuart Eizenstat
On 4 May 2005, Austria commemorated the victims of National Socialism in a ceremony in Parliament. The focus was on the National Fund founded ten years ago. The Fund had paid 5,000 euro to each of 30,000 victims in 78 countries as a financial “gesture” and also financed humanitarian and research projects.
Payments from the General Settlement Fund for NS Victims and Restitution set up in 2001 were delayed as class-action suits in the USA had not been abandoned. Former US Vice Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat, keynote speaker at the solemn remembrance in Parliament and a major player in the restitution negotiations between the USA and Austria promised to take measures against this “irresponsible delay“. Eizenstat expressed his appreciation for Austria’s efforts to come to terms with its recent past.
On 3 May 2005 Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel conferred the Great Golden Badge of Honour with Star on Eizenstat, who had also taken a leading role in establishing the Austrian Reconciliation Fund for former slave and forced labourers of the NS regime in 2000. ■
Mauthausen: international liberation ceremony on 8 May 2005
On 8 May 2005, Austria commemorated the liberation of the NS concentration camp in Mauthausen. Besides survivors and young people, political leaders and personalities of the economy, culture and religious communities participated. President Fischer and Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn delivered the main speeches. Ecumenical and Jewish services were celebrated. ■
Reform dialogue on growth and employment
Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel invited representatives of the social partners, political parties, the Länder and experts to a reform dialogue on growth and employment at Vienna’s Hofburg on 1 May 2005. The Chancellor announced measures to improve the situation in the labour market, including the issue of a research bond totalling 1 billion euro, the construction of power plants and an additional 300 million euro for infrastructure. The federal government expects up to 10,000 new jobs in the medium term. The bond is issued to provide “interim financing” to achieve the research ratio of 3% of the GDP by 2010. ■
School reform: two-thirds majority for school laws abolished
The two-thirds majority requirement for adopting school laws enshrined in the Constitution will be abolished. This decision was adopted by the People’s Party, the Social Democrats and the Alliance for the Future of Austria on 4 May 2005. Pillars of the educational system like compulsory schooling, no tuition fees, a differentiated school system and religious instruction continue to be guaranteed under the Constitution. Envisaged measures are e.g. more school autonomy and day care for pupils. ■
Federal President Fischer at commemoration in Moscow
More than 50 heads of state and government as well as high-ranking representatives of international organisations – among them US President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and President of the EU Commission José Manuel Barroso – participated in the celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. Austria was represented by President Heinz Fischer. ■
Chancellor Schüssel congratulated British PM Blair for winning election
Chancellor Schüssel congratulated British Prime Minister Tony Blair “very warmly“ for the success of his Labour Party in the election for the House of Commons on 5 May 2005. His re-election for a third term (after 1997 and 2001) was a “remarkable example of political continuity in Europe”, said Schüssel.
The Federal Chancellor described Blair as a “reliable partner of Austria and Europe“. “Austria and Great Britain will work together intensively in the next months in the framework of the two successive EU Presidencies”, stated Schüssel in view of Austria’s EU Presidency during the first six months of 2006. ■
Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic pays official visit to Austria
Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic met with Federal President Heinz Fischer and Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel for official talks focusing on EU issues and bilateral relations in Vienna (4 May 2005). The two countries welcomed EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania scheduled for 2007. ■
EU Commissioner Spidla in Vienna
During his visit to Austria, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Vladimir Spidla, met with Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel (29 April 2005). The top items on the agenda were the EU Constitution, locational issues, workers’ protection as well as measures to strengthen border regions.
One day earlier, Spidla had been received by Austria’s Federal President Heinz Fischer to discuss issues like the social dimension of the European Union. ■
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva pays visit to Austria
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva expects her country to start EU accession negotiations under the Austrian EU Presidency during the first half of 2006. “These negotiations will acknowledge the reforms carried out in Macedonia”, she said at a joint press conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in Vienna on 4 May 2005.
Macedonia expected to be granted the status of an accession candidate at the December summit of the European Council. Plassnik referred to Macedonia as a “positive example for the peace project Europe”. The country had made significant progress towards EU integration, but there was still “quite a lot” to do. “Our goal is a peaceful, prosperous and European region Western Balkans”, stated the Austrian Foreign Minister. Together with the other states of the region, Macedo¬nia would be a priority of the Austrian EU Presidency. ■
Foreign Minister Plassnik received her counterpart from Burkina Faso
On 29 April 2005 Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik discussed bilateral relations and regional developments in Africa with her counterpart from Burkina Faso, Youssouf Ouédraogo. The country formerly called Upper Volta was a key target of the Austrian Development Cooperation (EZA) and for Vienna an important partner to talk to on the African continent, emphasised Plassnik.
In 1996 an Austrian cooperation office had been opened in Ouagadougou. The second country programme would be signed soon, which provided for an significant increase in funds (by 30% to 13 million euro). The money would be used to finance projects of rural development, vocational training and small trade, explained Plassnik.■
Federal Chancellor Schüssel: regions constitute Europe’s identity
In his festive speech at the opening of the “Institute of the Regions of Europe“ (IRE) in Vienna on 4 May 2005, Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel advocated that the political and economic significance of the regions had to be strengthened and promoted within the EU. The mission of this new Institute is to support this development. The former Governor of Salzburg Franz Schausberger is its chairman and a co-founder.
“The people of Europe experience politics primarily in the regions and communities. It is therefore useful and necessary to build a Europe growing from the bottom to the top”, stressed Schüssel. The Federal Chancellor also proposed to carry out structural reforms in the European Union to bring the ideal of subsidiarity to life. Many citizens react to the current debate on the European Constitution with distrust and the fear to lose something valuable. “In reality we win something, namely the unity of Europe“, emphasised Schüssel. It was therefore necessary to ensure an effective distribution of powers between the EU, the Member States and the regions. The “Institute of the Regions of Europe“ is to provide new stimuli to political consultation processes.
High-ranking representatives of the European regions, among them former Minister-President of the Free State of Saxony Kurt Biedenkopf and President of the EU Committee of the Regions Peter Straub, attended the inauguration ceremony at the Federal Chancellery. ■
OeNB: Austrian balance on current account 2004 shows a plus
2004 was a successful year for the domestic economy despite the economic low and weak US dollar, as the balance on current account presented by the Austrian National Bank (OeNB) on 26 April 2005 demonstrates.
This is the second time in the past 14 years that the Austrian balance on current account shows a surplus: + 0.8 billion euro corresponding to 0.3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The OeNB described it as a “balanced result”.
One year earlier the Austrian balance on current account had still registered a deficit of 0.5% of the GDP. A surplus had been recorded in 2002 for the last time.
According to the OeNB, exports had been the driving force behind the surplus in 2004. Exports to the USA had contributed more than 10% to the total increase in exports. According to data provided by the Austrian Statistical Office (Statistik Austria), domestic exports rose by 13% in 2004, while imports increased only by 10.4%. At year-end 2004 direct investments were also in balance for the first time. With about 52 billion euro, Austrian investors hold the same amount of capital in foreign companies as foreign investors in Austrian enterprises. ■
Purchasing power: Austria is no. 4
Austria’s consumers are among the wealthiest of Europe. In a recent comparison of price-adjusted purchasing power they ranked fourth in Europe with 17,531 euro per year. Among the EU Member States only the inhabitants of Luxembourg have more money at their disposal. According to a study by Fessel-GfK, the number one is Liechtenstein with 32,203 euro per capita, followed by Luxembourg with 22,331 euro and Switzerland with 19,658 euro. The average registered in the EU-25 is 14,255 euro, while that of Europe as a whole totals 9,894 euro.
“Price-adjusted purchasing power” takes account of the different price levels of the different countries. Purchasing power is defined as the net income, including government transfer payments. ■
Mozart Year: Salzburg expects a plus of over 100,000 hotel nights
Salzburg’s city tourism expects a significant plus of at least 100,000 hotel nights in the Mozart Year 2006. “If everything works out fine, we can break the barrier of 2 million hotel nights“, explained Herbert Brugger, Managing Director of Tourismus Salzburg GmbH, to Austria Press Agency (APA). Last year about 1.8 million guests spent a night in Salzburg. “In the ideal case, the Mozar Year will boost sales by 20 million euro – every guest spends an average of 127 euro per day the city of Salzburg”, said Brugger. All related industries would also benefit from this trend. ■
Morak presents new architecture prize for “best houses”
“From now onwards Austria will define itself based on its architectural landscape. We want to make it the international hub in architecture”, Secretary of State for the Arts and Media Franz Morak commented the objective of the newly created architecture prize for single-family houses – “The Best House” – initiated jointly with the building and loan association “s Bausparkasse”. The prize-winning “most beautiful houses” are on show in an exhibition at the Architecture Centre Vienna (AzW) until 26 May 2005. As Morak explained, the first competition (with no less than 220 entries) showed that it was possible “to combine high quality and high quotas”. It demonstrated “the great potential of private persons building houses combined with quality and the esthetical canon of architecture”. As Director General of s Bausparkasse Josef Schmidinger underlined, the single-family house was the most popular form of housing in Austria. It stood for independence in living and maximum creative freedom in building”. The commitment of s Bausparkasse to this prize was explained by the fact that the financing of owner-occupied dwellings was vital to its business. AzW had had the overall responsibility for creating and realising the prize paying homage to outstanding architects or planners. The most compelling project in Burgenland was a house by the architect Dietmar Gasser, re-interpreting a local building type. In Upper Austria the winner was the house of Silvia and Andreas Scheuer, planned by Gerhard Fischill. In Tyrol the prize went to the simple, cube-shaped house of Rudolf Alexander Mayr, planned by Manzl.Sandner. A new interpretation of an urban villa in Bregenz, praised for its spatial sophistication and innovative technique, was supplied by Christian Matt for Bettina Decker and Thomas Wichtl. In Vienna, registering together with Vorarlberg most entries (41 projects each), the building owner Hans Lob was praised for his holiday residence erected by archiguards on a steep slope in the Vienna Woods, which proves to be a wonderful alternative to the city apartment. The project winning in Lower Austria – owners: Katharina and Wolfgang Schilk, planner: Herzog_Hrabal ZT OEG – was paid tribute for its sensitive response to the surroundings and the smooth transition from public to private space. In Salzburg the prize was awarded for the monolithic house of Eva and Fritz Hauswirth, which was entirely covered with a black sheet by the planners “hobby A, - Schuster & Maul“. In Carinthia the reconstructed villa near Wörther Lake (planners: Klaura & Partner Architekten) was selected from among only nine entries. The house of Herbert Scherübel planned by yes architecture became the winner in Styria. ■
Volume 2 of minutes of Council of Ministers of Figl I Cabinet published
The second volume of the minutes of the Council of Ministers of the Leopold Figl I Cabinet edited by Gertrude Enderle-Burzel and Rudolf Jeřábek is now published in the Jubilee Year 2005. Secretary of State Morak presented the book on 4 May 2005. It continues the edition for the period after 1945 started with the minutes of the provisional government under Renner. Another volume of the series with a planned total of twelve books will appear still this year. The complete edition of the minutes of the Council of Ministers of the Figl I. Cabinet commented by scholars offers fundamental historical source material for the first years of the Second Republic. The minutes of the Council of Ministers thus make an important contribution to research on the post-war restoration of the state authorities and political institutions in Austria. ■
Belvedere: “Celebration of Joy” to mark State Treaty jubilee
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Austrian State Treaty on 15 May, 240 artists will be starred at an open-air event at Belvedere Palace in Vienna, among them Joe Zawinul, Marianne Mendt, Elfriede Ott, Hansi Lang, with a total of 25 orchestras and bands. In the morning witnesses of the period will try to share their experience with young people (“Talks of the Generations”) in the Park of the Upper Belvedere. This will be followed by an extract from the oratory of the Baroque composer Franz Xaver Frenzel. On huge video screens the official ceremony will be transmitted from the Marble Hall of Belevedere Palace, where the political representatives of Austria and the signatory states will celebrate the jubilee. Musicians like Melanie Holiday or the Webern Chamber Choir will then evoke memories of the past 50 years, with intermittent discussions with witnesses of the epoch. The “multi-party for Austria” in the evening offering world music, jazz and traditional Viennese songs will be concluded by Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy“. And this should be a “day of joy”, as Secretary of State Morak put it, who also hoped that the artists starred would provide stimulus to “a new self-confidence“ for Austria. ■
Milan’s La Scala: Vienna Philharmonic triumphing with Muti
The Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Riccardo Muti triumphed at a guest performance at Milan’s La Scala opera house. As previously at Vienna’s Musikverein, the programme included Joseph Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony“ and Aleksandr Skrjabin’s third symphony “La divine poème“. The enthusiastic audience broke into rhythmic applause and threw flowers thanking the conductor, who had resigned as music director of La Scala, when the personnel refused to work for manager Mauro Meli. The new administrative head is the Frenchman Stéphane Lissner, who is also responsible for the music programme of the Vienna Festival. The concert at La Scala ended with a sensational dramatic-lyrical interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s overture to “La forza del destino“ and certainly reminded the audience of the brilliant Verdi productions under Muti’s artistic directorship. ■
Academy of Visual Arts: Pierre Cardin Design & Fashion
Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häupl awarded the trophy “Goldene Rathausmann“, a replica of the statue on top of Vienna’s town hall, to couturier Pierre Cardin (82) from Paris. Vienna’s Academy of Visual Arts is presenting the exhibition “Cardin Design & Fashion 1950-2005“ (until 29 May 2005). Originally working as an assistant to Christian Dior, Cardin developed the cool “New Look” in the 1950s characterised by clear lines and geometric shapes. In 1959 he presented his first prêt-à-porter collection in the department store Printemps in Paris, democratised luxurious fashion profitably and expanded into Eastern Europe and China. His fashion empire (currently worth 400 million euro thanks to about 700 licenses granted) employs 200,000 people around the world. The name Cardin can be found on women’s and men’s wear but also on blankets, rubber boats and even sardine cans. ■
Maria Lassnig at the Essl Collection
The Essl Collection in Klosterneuburg near Vienna holds an impressive exhibition about Maria Lassnig. 40 oil paintings, 35 water colours, five sculptures and eight films – all owned by the Essel Collection – are on show until 28 August 2005. The artist from Carinthia (86), influenced by the Nötscher Kreis (a group of loosely connected painters) and Herbert Böckl, is presented as a great fighter for women’s emancipation. The multifarious aspects of the fight between the sexes are the themes of her dramatic, radical artistic world. ■
Maria Schell 1926-2005
The actress Maria Schell died at the age of 79 in her farmhouse in Carinthia. Schell, who had to flee with her family from Vienna to Switzerland in 1938, became an international star in the post-war years. With Helmut Käutner’s anti-war film “The Last Bridge“ she won the title “Best Actress” in Cannes in 1954. In Hollywood she made her debut as Grushenka in “The Brothers Karamazov” by Richard Brooks in 1957. In 1959 she gave an impressive performance on TV in the USA as Maria in “For Whom the Bells Toll“ based on Ernest Hemingway, who congratulated her. Her brother Maximilian dedicated a touching cinematographic monument to the “soulful”: “Meine Schwester Maria“. In 2002 the two received the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art. The Secretary of State for the Arts said: “With Maria Schell we lose the icon of the German-speaking world of theatre and cinema. It has been a sheer impossibility not to be touched by her“. ■
“Sissi“ Romy Schneider supports Karlheinz Böhm’s foundation
Elisabeth (1837-1898, killed in Geneva), Empress of Austria, called “Sisi“, was brought back to life in the 1950s by the very young Romy Schneider (1938-1982) in Ernst Marischka’s “Sissi“ trilogy. To date the films with the charismatic Austrian actress are popular all over the world. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary, Karlheinz Böhm, who had played Emperor Francis Joseph and is now probably the world’s best known development aid volunteer, invited to a charity gala at the orangery of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna with prominent guests. The musical and artistic background was provided by the Johann Strauß Quartet and soloists of the ballet of Vienna State Opera. The proceeds went to Böhm’s Ethiopian project, the Foundation “People for People”. ■
New “Retz Festival” with Heinz Fischer and Václav Havel
The first “Retz Festival“ in Weinviertel (Lower Austria) is staged under the motto “music and literature – open borders” from 30 June to 10 July 2005. It offers opera, music and contemporary literature from Austria and the Czech Republic. The aim of the festival is to stimulate dialogue and to open borders – between art and nature, literature and music, between regional and elite culture, Znaim and Retz, Austria and the Czech Republic. It is inaugurated with the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů’s opera “Veselohra na mostĕ“ (“Comedy on the Bridge“), produced by Anisha Bondy. Czech writer and former President Václav Havel will read from his texts in Czech language. The German translation will be presented by Federal President Heinz Fischer. In the framework of the theme nights “Art as a Hope”, the opera “The Emperor of Atlan¬tis“ composed by Viktor Ullmann in the Czech Theresienstadt – combining music and literature from the concentration camp – will be performed. Other highlights are readings by renowned Austrian authors like Christine Nöstlinger, Robert Menasse and Christoph Ransmayr. The “Retz Festival“ will take place annually and have “cross-border effects on literature and aesthetics”, said artistic counsellor Peter Turrini, who boasts to be a resident of Retz. A new wine is to lend red-white-red wings to the festival. An expected audience of about 3,000 is to provide stimulus to Weinviertel and the structurally weak Waldviertel. ■
Chancellor Schüssel: Book on Austria for pupils passing A-levels
On 2 May 2005 Chancellor Schüssel and Minister of Education Gehrer presented a book with 15 conversations about Austria’s future with prominent personalities of different generations, e.g. Franz Olah, Christoph Schön-born, Fred Sinowatz, Susanne Riess-Passer, Josef Taus and Kurt Scholz. The book written by Andreas Unterberger (the new editor-in-chief of the daily “Wiener Zeitung“) is now available in the bookshops. The Chancellor will give it as a personal gift in the Commemorative Year 2005 to about 40,000 pupils taking the A-levels. ■
2005: “MUMOK is free“
In the Jubilee Year 2005 free admission will be granted to the Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation (MUMOK) in Vienna from 15 May to 15 June 2005. The campaign under the motto “MUMOK is free“ has the aim of integrating “the Republic’s central memory for modern and contemporary art” into public awareness, said Director Köb. Like last year, Vienna’s art district “MuseumsQuartier” offers “ArtNights” in the framework of its special summer programme. MUMOK, Leopold Museum and Kunsthalle Vienna can be visited for an admission fee of 9 euro on the first Thursday of the month between May and September, including a guided tour through all venues. ■
Vienna-ORF: “Gulda Birthday Party“
The Viennese pianist Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000), winner of the International Music Contest in Geneva (aged 16), legendary performer of classical, jazz and pop music, crossing the borders to world music (e.g. with Iraqi oud player Munir Bashir) would have celebrated his 75th birthday on 16 May 2005. On 14 May RadioKulturhaus of the ORF will throw a “Gulda Birthday Party“. The guests include Benjamin Schmid (violin) and Roland Batik, a student of Gulda, brilliant performer of classical music (Haydn) and jazz pianist. Works by Gulda will be performed, e.g. “Concertino for Players and Singers“ with Motettenchor Wien and Batik as well as “Wings“ with the ensemble “die reihe” and soloist Schmid. ■
Austrian economy is the winner of the Ice-Hockey World Championship 2005
Although the finals of the Ice-Hockey World Championship will take place only on 15 May 2005, the Austrian business community is already highly pleased about this sensational mass-sports event, reaping a profit of at least 60 million euro. Sport has again shown that it is an important partner of the economy. “Ice-hockey and the economy have a lot in common. Therefore and also because sport in Austria contributes about 3% to the Gross Domestic Product and safeguards approximately 100,000 jobs, the Economic Chamber Austria has to be active also in this segment.”, stressed Hans-Jörg Schelling, Vice President of the Economic Chamber Austria (WKÖ). Thanks to the excellent partnership between the Economic Chamber Austria and the Austrian Ice-Hockey Association (ÖEHV), many Austrian entrepreneurs attended the Ice-Hockey World Championship held in Vienna and Innsbruck. Based on a recent study of Kepler University Linz, a value-added effect of at least 60 million euro and an employment effect of about 700 safeguarded or new jobs can be expected. The international media presence underscores the significance of ice-hockey as well as Austria’s international renown as a perfect host of sport events. 1,398 press people, 180 TV stations (with a total of 5,153 persons being accredited) report about the outstanding performance of the 384 ice-hockey players. The attendance rates are also highly satisfactory. To date about 170,000 visitors have watched 28 matches in Vienna and Innsbruck. In the framework of the IIHF World Championship in Vienna, a “Coaching Symposium“ was held, which had been organised excellently by ÖEHV Vice President Kurt Eschenberger and IIHF Manager Pascal Stucki. A variety of subjects and interesting programmes focusing on technical, tactical, athletic and psychological aspects as well as leadership in modern ice-hockey were covered comprehensively. Apart from traditional ice-hockey countries, representatives of Japan, Hungary, Mexico and New Zealand were present. In general, the teams showed themselves very satisfied with the procedures and the infrastructure although in the beginning there had been problems with the ice surface in Vienna. ■
“Fit for Austria” now available on the Internet
The new virtual health service platform offers continuously updated information about the health campaign organised in cooperation with the umbrella organisations ASKÖ, ASVÖ and SPORT-UNION. In a first step, information is provided on the project, its philosophy, the quality seal, the advantages of the sport associations, quality criteria and a lot more. The aim was “to position and intensively promote sport as a service provider in the health system”, emphasised Franz Löschnak, President of the Federal Sport Organisation (BSO). 60 percent of the Austrians (still) did not practise any sports – and this is exactly where the campaign “Fit for Austria” comes in. If people do not approach sport, sport must approach the people. According to Secretary of State for Sports Karl Schweitzer the following trend should be countered: “We use the first third of our lives to earn money, in the second third we try to recover the health lost in this process so as to be able to enjoy the last third.” Special mention should be made of the fact that organised sport and all its associations are not only involved in the campaign, but will also benefit from the comprehensive marketing measures. Based on a study of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), the increased use of preventive measures in the Austrian health system (e.g. health programmes giving priority to physical exercise) offers the enormous savings potential of 3.6 billion euro or 1.7% of the GDP. ■