Culture, Media, Science
Federal Chancellery and ORF present “Austria 2005“
According to Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, 2005 was not only a Jubilee Year but also a “Gedankenjahr”, a year of thought, as one of the objectives was to reflect on the Austrian identity. In 2005 the 60th anniversary of the Second Republic, the 50th anniversary of the State Treaty, the 10th anniversary of EU membership and the 50th anniversary of television will be celebrated.
Chancellor Schüssel and Secretary of State for the Arts Franz Morak invited to the presentation of the jubilee programme to Vienna’s Arsenal on 8 November 2004. Federal President Heinz Fischer, numerous high-ranking personalities of the political, economic and cultural arenas as well as media representatives attended the event. Director General of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) Monika Lindner presented the TV programme highlights.
Schüssel underlined the necessity to re-define the Austrian identity. “As a nation we are not the same today that we were 60 years ago. A lot has changed. Today’s tensions and clashes are different, and also people’s expectations in the future and fears have changed. This “year of thought” offers an opportunity to reconcile the past, presence and prospects for the future. This is especially true for our position in Europe. Once more we have moved from the periphery to the centre“, said Schüssel. The Chancellor explicitly called upon all Austrians to participate in the Jubilee Year and emphasissed: “Almost one million people living in Austria today have not been born here. In fact, a home country has nothing to do with the birth certificate but the feeling of being accepted. Austria should be a home for all of them”.
Secretary of State Morak, who is coordinating the preparations for the Jubilee Year, stressed in his speech that he wanted to initiate a broad discussion based on differentiated approaches: “Founded on the knowledge and awareness of our past, we want to develop prospects for jointly shaping the future. Our aim is to stimulate diversified approaches based on a confrontation with the numerous jubilees at the institutional level, the level of the civil society and the post-modern event society“, explained Morak. He thanked numerous institutions and groups for cooperating in the programme development and announced that new programme highlights were added on an ongoing basis.
The Federal Chancellery presented its commemorative volume “Österreich 2005. Das Lesebuch zum Jubiläumsjahr“ (Residenzverlag), offering a compilation of essays, photos, poems and programme tips. Among the 73 authors – politicians, scholars and artists – are Federal President Fischer, Chancellor Schüssel and Secretary of State Morak. The Jubilee Year is inaugurated on 14 January 2005 with a ceremony in the historic cabinet room in Parliament. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Austria’s accession to the EU, Chancellor Schüssel will receive his German counterpart Gerhard Schröder on 1 January 2005. ■
Government agrees on health package and fiscal equalisation
On 11 November 2004 the Federal Government agreed on fiscal equalisation, the financing of the health system and a stability pact between the Republic, the federal provinces and the communities. These were decisive steps towards a socially fair distribution of resources, stressed Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel.
Schüssel drew attention to the agreement on a set of structural measures in the health system. The government was proud of the high quality of the Austrian health sector and was “jointly responsible” for its preservation. He explained that additional “fresh money” totalling 300 million euro had been made available to hospital operators and health insurance institutions. The key measures consisted in increasing the prescription charge by 10% (from 4.35 to 4.45 euro), health insurance contributions by 0.1%, contributions to hospital charges from 7.98 to 10 euro per day, the tobacco tax by 18% per cigarette packet and the maximum health insurance contribution basis by 90 to 3,540 euro. Refunds for glasses are granted only to children, persons with high-level visual impairment and the socially weak. The equalisation package adopted includes reform measures to subsidise smaller communities. To bridge financing caps resulting from the revenue distribution based on community population size, the Federal Government spends 100 million euro, 80% of which go to very small communities. ■
Federal Chancellor Schüssel at EU summit in Brussels
At the summit meeting of the 25 EU heads of state and government in Brussels (4/5 November 2004) Austria was represented by Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. Talks focused on asylum and economic issues as well as the new European Commission.
The Federal Chancellor informed about the resolutions of the EU summit at a press conference after the Council of Ministers’ meeting on 9 November 2004. Schüssel explicitly welcomed the proposal on the new composition of the European Commission. “It is important that we will soon have a Commission capable of acting. From the Austrian perspective, it is a highly pleasing fact that our candidate, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has been undisputed“, said Schüssel.
The so-called “Hague Programme“ has been adopted in the framework of the common judicial and internal policy. It provides for closer cooperation of the EU Member States in the field of asylum and migration policy from 2005 onwards. Schüssel described it as “the security programme for all of Europe having effects beyond the borders of the current European Union“.
The programme will introduce a common asylum procedure, common migration legislation and minimum standards for refugee protection within the next five years. Another objective is the fairer distribution of costs. To this end, the EU sets up a special fund and is willing to grant assistance to those countries adversely affected by unexpected migration flows. The programme also includes measures for a better protection of the external borders of the EU.
Schüssel mentioned the combat against corruption as one of the priorities of the Austrian EU Presidency (first six months of 2006). Moreover, cooperation of the EU Member States in the combat against terrorism and organised crime is to be enhanced.
Another item on the agenda of the EU summit was the debate about Europe’s position as a business location based on the Wim Kok Report. The Federal Chancellor drew attention to the report’s warning against the ageing of society. The paper explained that due to the demographic development economic growth in Europe would decline sharply unless counter-measures were taken. Therefore, it was crucial to focus on indispensable pension reforms, to raise the early retirement age, job opportunities, notably for older workers, as well as on the promotion of lifelong learning and common research strategies, underlined the Federal Chancellor. ■
Official Austria offered its condolences on Yasser Arafat’s death
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who died on 11 November 2004, has been commemorated worldwide as a historic personality.
In Austria Federal President Heinz Fischer paid tribute to Arafat’s commitment to a Palestinian state and endorsed support for the “political heritage” of the deceased. He was proud of the fact that Arafat had been linked with Austria by bonds of friendship. Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel praised Arafat as a “charismatic personality“, who had untiringly fought for an independent Palestinian state. Austria’s Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said: “With Arafat the PLO and the Palestinian people have lost the central personality of their struggle for self-determination“.
At the formal funeral ceremony for Yasser Arafat in Cairo (12 November 2004) Austria was represented by Vice-Chancellor Hubert Gorbach. ■
Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi pays official visit to Austria
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi arrived for a two-day state visit in Austria on 11 November 2004. He was accompanied by Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin. The official programme included talks with Federal President Heinz Fischer, Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. Key subjects were development aid projects and bilateral economic relations. Since 1993 Ethiopia has been a prioritised country in the framework of Austria’s development aid cooperation programme.
Austria and Ethiopia signed an investment protection agreement to promote domestic investments in Ethiopia. ■
VA Tech: waiver of blocking period for Siemens bid
The Takeover Committee “waived the blocking period for Siemens AG Austria with immediate effect by resolution of 12 November 2004”, informed a press release. This allows Siemens to submit its planned takeover bid for the Linz-based technology group VA Tech.
The decision was inter alia explained by the fact that this step would not be detrimental to VA Tech or its shareholders. In its argumentation the Takeover Committee also stated that the share price announced by Siemens exceeded the stock exchange price achieved in the past three years and was only subject to legal requirements. Moreover, Siemens had presented a statement about the company’s envisaged business policy. “In view of the statements of Siemens, the competent panel is of the opinion that the requirements for a waiver of the blocking period have been met and therefore adopts the decision unanimously“, the statement read.
After a first takeover deal had failed in September of this year, the Takeover Committee prohibited Siemens from submitting a bid for one year. Then Siemens surprisingly acquired the 16.45% VA Tech share of the then major shareholder Mirko Kovats on 7 November 2004. This has made Siemens the main shareholder of Austria’s largest technology enterprise – ahead of the state holding company ÖIAG (14.7%).
Siemens Austria immediately announced that it planned to take over all of VA Tech and requested to reduce the bid-blocking period. The takeover bid would soon be presented, informed Siemens. A bid price of 55 euro per share was stated. Thus more than 840 million euro would be mobilised for the takeover.
Due to statutory periods, the final takeover of VA Tech can be expected to take place only in the first quarter 2005. The 16.45% stake of Siemens corresponded to the total of 15,319,040 shares issued, announced VA Tech on 12 November 2004. At the same time, the enterprise informed that the capital increase, which had been planned several months ago, would not be implemented. ■
Austria intensifies relations with China
Accompanied by a large trade delegation, Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Transport Hubert Gorbach paid an official visit of several days to China in early November. In the future, Austria and China would cooperate more closely in the development of toll systems, traffic control systems (telematics) and in tunnel construction projects. In Beijing Gorbach and his Chinese counterpart Zhang Chunxian agreed to set up a special working group. Austria hopes to impress with its fully electronic toll systems, e.g. for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and its globally applied “Austrian tunnel construction method”. A new tunnel in Shanghai – with a diameter of 10 meters, the world’s widest tunnel – could be a possible project. ■
All time-high of government-subsidised personal pension plans
The providers of personal pension plans subsidised by the government continue to record a true boom of new contracts. “While in late 2003 282,000 contracts and in mid-2004 approximately 400,000 contracts had been concluded, the market is now experiencing an all-time high of 600,000 pension plan holders“, Andreas Zakostelsky, Managing Director of Raiffeisen Capital Management, told reporters on 2 November 2004.
Zakostelsky expects this number to grow on average by 300,000 contracts annually and that the threshold of 1 million contracts will be reached in the first half of 2006.
With 180 euro in 2005, the maximum annual premium for pension plans will hit an all-time high, “in spite of the fact that we are currently in a phase of low interest rates“, stressed Zakostelsky. As the maximum eligible amount of different government-aided pension plan products is calculated in line with the maximum contribution basis pursuant to the General Social Insurance Act (ASVG), next year pension plan holders can save up a maximum of 2,000 euro (rounded), in respect of which the government grants the level premium of 9%. Thus the state contributes up to 180 euro. In 2004 the maximum amount subsidised was 1,901 euro, the maximum premium stood at about 171 euro. ■
Ignaz L. Lieben Prize to neuro-scientist Zoltan Nusser
The Ignaz L. Lieben Prize of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Öster¬reichische Akademie der Wissenschaften / ÖAW) was awarded in Vienna on 9 November 2004 for the first time after having been discontinued by the National Socialists in 1938. Thanks to a foundation of the US patron Alfred Ba¬der, who had to flee from Austria as a child, it has become possible to revive the “Nobel Prize” of the former Danube monarchy. The chemist and founder of the chemicals company Sigma-Aldrich had to leave Vienna in 1939 in a Children’s Transport heading for England.
The first winner of this prize is the Hungarian neuro-scientist Zoltan Nusser (36). Before the awards ceremony, Alfred Bader described how moved he was by the fact that it was precisely on 9 November, the date of the “Crystal Night“ (during the November pogroms in 1938 the Nazis burnt Jewish synagogues, raided shops and murdered people), that the prize was awarded for the first time after 66 years.
Originally the bankers’ family had offered the prize for the “continuing promotion of scientific research”. The award granted for the first time in 1862 is the oldest ÖAW award and one of the most important science prizes in the history of (Old) Austria. Among the prize winners were inter alia later Nobel Prize Laureates such as Fritz Pregl, Victor Hess, Otto Loewi or Karl von Frisch.
The Lieben Prize is to be granted to young scientists from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria for “outstanding work in the field of molecular biology, chemistry and physics“. Prize winner Zoltan Nusser of the Institute for Experimental Medicine of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Budapest) had been selected from 54 applications. He explained that he considered the award also an acknowledgement of his discipline. In the next years he would try to discover “how the brains, this wonderful machine, work“. The scientist, who returned to Hungary after doing research in Great Britain and the USA for several years, focuses on the question how sensory information is processed, transmitted and stored by the nerve cells. The Jewish Museum Vienna presents the exhibition “The Liebens – the 150-year history of a Viennese family“, dedicated to the history of the bankers’ family from the days of Vienna’s revolutionary March 1848 to the present day (open until 3 April 2005). Vienna University hosts a touring exhibition about previous Lieben prize winners and sponsors. “Alexander Rodchenko. Moscow“ it the title of another exhibition on show at the Jewish Museum until 12 December 2004. It was created in cooperation with Moscow’s “House of Photography“ and presents pictures of Moscow in the late 1920s. ■
Concert of Austrian-Korean Philhar-monic Orchestra in Vienna
Korea and Austria have become important partners in economic and diplomatic terms during the past decades. Art and culture have however played only a minor role as a bond between the two states. This is one of the reasons why the Korean-Austrian Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1999, consisting of young musicians from both countries. The Orchestra has earned a reputation over the last few years. It is committed to the “friendship of nations and to conveying the universal message of music”, said Austria’s Secretary of State for the Arts and Media Franz Morak. Besides him, other personalities support the Orchestra, e.g. Ambassador of the Republic of Korea Cho Chang-Beom, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, Minister of Education Elisabeth Gehrer, Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häupl and the President of the Austrian-Korean Society, Heinrich Neisser. The Orchestra gave an impressive performance – with Mozart, Schubert and Korean songs. ■
In memoriam Felix Kreissler
Felix Kreissler, the historian and literary scholar born in Vienna, died aged 88 in Montreuil (France) on 24 October 2004. Engaged in politics at an early age, he emigrated to France in 1937, where he joined the Résistance, was arrested and deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp. In 1947 he returned to Vienna and worked as a journalist. When he was more than 40 years old, he started to study in France, where he participated in the establishment of the Institute for German Studies of the Université de Haute-Normandie in the 1970s. He rendered meritorious service to his native country as he succeeded in introducing Austria studies at French universities by founding the Austria Centre CERA (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Autrichiennes). ■
Ljubljana and Vienna commemorate the great conductor Carlos Kleiber
In June 1997 Carlos Kleiber conducted the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra in Ljubljana (Slovenia). Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms were performed at the concert, which was one of the last performances of the exceptional conductor. Kleiber died on 13 July 2004 and was buried in Konjsica, near Ljubljana. Now tribute was paid to Carlos Kleiber in a moving memorial ceremony under the aegis of the Austrian and Slovenian Foreign Ministries. Former Slovenian State President Milan Kucan had succeeded in convincing Kleiber to conduct in Ljubljana – a performance that has gone down in history. Now the unforgettable maestro was posthumously awarded the honorary membership of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra. A niece of the conductor received the certificate of honour. Riccardo Muti, a declared friend of Kleiber, inspired the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and the great men’s choir in Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony“ and Brahms’ “Rhapsody for orchestra“ to a brilliant performance, for which he refused to accept any applause.
On 2 November 2004 a rehearsal stage of Vienna’s State Opera was ceremoniously re-named “Carlos Kleiber Rehearsal Stage“. Opera director Ioan Holender reminded of the special relationship of the conductor with the opera house: “Nobody in the State Opera’s long history has conducted here so rarely and influenced the house so profoundly and lastingly like Carlos Kleiber“. His rare performances in Vienna, his interpretations of “The Rose-Bearer“, “Carmen“, “La Traviata“, “La Boheme“ and “The Bat“ have become living music history. ■
Kafka Prize to Elfriede Jelinek
Elfriede Jelinek, Literature Nobel Prize Laureate 2004, was awarded the Franz Kafka Literature Prize of the City of Prague on 1 November 2004. Since the writer was unable to attend the ceremony at the Town Hall in the historic city centre for reasons of health, the Austrian ambassador to the Czech Republic accepted the prize on her behalf, inter alia a bronze statuette, a replica of the Kafka monument in Prague. Jelinek’s Czech translator, Jitka Jilkova, stated in the laudatio that the author had often criticised the “reluctance of the Austrians to be faced with themselves and their past“: “She knows that it is fatal to lie to oneself“. And she concluded by quoting Jelinek “With some bitterness I also make fun of myself, in fact that is what I enjoy most“. Upon request by Elfriede Jelinek, her thank-you statement was presented by Libgart Schwarz, an actress of Vienna’s Burgtheater. Jelinek was the fourth recipient of the Kafka Prize. Previous award winners were Philip Roth (USA), Ivan Klima (Czech Republic) and Peter Nadas (Hungary). Elfriede Jelinek is the first female author to be awarded the Franz Kafka Prize. ■
Otto Mauer Prize to Esther Stocker
The 2004 Monsignor Otto Mauer Prize goes to Esther Stocker. The artist born in Schlanders (South Tyrol/Italy) in 1974 and now living in Vienna will receive the award on 30 November 2004. The Prize is offered to recognise the oeuvre of an Austrian artist aged under 40. Vienna’s Archiepiscopal Palace presents the works of Stocker from 10 to 23 December 2004, which are seemingly built on a strict regular pattern and the repetition of uniform elements. The jury explained its selection: “Everything in this artistic work seems foreseeable. It seems so. For again and again expectations are frustrated. The art of Esther Stocker ventures from the seemingly familiar to completely new spheres of the unexpected“. The Prize for Visual Art has been granted by the Otto Mauer Fund since 1981. The Fund had been established by Franz Cardinal König and the heir to Msgr. Otto Mauer, Prelate Karl Strobl. ■
Vienna’s “Literature in Autumn“ festival spotlights Romania
Romanian literature was the focus of the poetry readings, lectures and panel discussions of this year’s “Literature in Autumn” festival. The series of events organised by the Art Association “Wien Alte Schmiede” gave insight into the diversity of contemporary Romanian literary creation which is still little known in the German-speaking area. Subjects discussed were exile literature dating back to Emil Cioran and Eugène Ionescu as well as the so-called “Generation 80“, the authors who had started writing in the 1980s and had to find a literary response to the transformation of 1989. Among the writers reading from their works in Vienna were the lyric poet Mircea Dinescu, Mircea Cartarescu, who became famous for his stories “Nostalgia“, as well as Dumitru Tepeneag, Adriana Bittel and Daniel Banulescu. Until 26 November 2004 Bank Austria shows the graphic work and photos by Mircea Stanescu. Porgy & Bess presents “Jazz from Romania – Teodora Enache and Band“. ■
Book Week: free copies of novel by Johannes M. Simmel in Vienna
In the framework of the free book campaign “A City. A Book” organised for the third time in Vienna 100,000 free copies will be given away until 22 November 2004. The novel “Das geheime Brot“ by the best-selling author Johannes Mario Simmel born in Vienna is available at the book fair at the Town Hall, adult education centres, in libraries and 150 book-shops. A matinée will be held at Volkstheater at 11 a.m. on 21 November 2004 (free admission). Andrea Eckert will read from the novel, and State Prize winner for cultural journalism, Peter Huemer, will talk with the 80-year-old writer. Simmel’s early novel published in 1950 tells the story of Jakob Steiner, who returns after the end of WWII to his destroyed and desolate native city. He has no longer a home, his wife and daughter have been killed in a bomb attack. A failed suicidal attempt marks a turning point for the better. With the help of friends he finally finds a new family and a home. ■
OsterKlang: spiritual programme
The “OsterKlang“ festival (18 to 28 March 2005) will offer a spiritual programme. It will be opened with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding performing Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion“. Soloists are Christine Schäfer, Anne Sofie von Otter, Olaf Bär and Mark Padmore. With John Neumeier’s “Winter¬reise“, the Hamburg Ballet will give another guest performance in Vienna. The Minorite Church will be the venue of a project blending text with sound – with Peter Simonischek, Brigitte Karner and two soloists of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. OsterKlang also pre-sents Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart with Helmuth Rilling, the Armenian Apostolic Church Singers with Loris Tjeknavorian, Martin Haselböck, cellist Heinrich Schiff, Tölzer Knabenchor and RSO-Wien conducted by Bertrand de Billy and starring tenor Johan Botha. ■
European Documentary Film Prize to film director Hubert Sauper
With his latest documentary “Darwin’s Nightmare“, film director Hubert Sauper – born in Tyrol in 1966 and now living in France – recently won the European Documentary Film Prize offered by the European Film Academy in Berlin jointly with the German-French cultural TV channel “arte”. At this year’s Venice Film Festival the documentary – a critical analysis of globalisation based on the examples of Tansania and Kenia – had not only won acclaim but also an award. ■
International Children’s Film Festival
Within the competition of the International Children’s Film Festival in Vienna films for all age groups are presented in Viennese cinemas (cinemagic, Hollywood-Megaplex SCN and Votiv-Kino) until 21 November 2004. The festival films are also screened at Stadtkino Gmunden, the Schubert-Kino in Graz as well as the Leo-Kino in Innsbruck. Criteria for film selection were that the stories are told from the perspective of children, e.g. stories about being foreign, about disease, patchwork families as well as co-existence in different cultures and religions. Three prizes are awarded at this festival. A jury of eleven cinema fans aged 10 to 14 offers the Prize of the Children’s Jury and the UNICEF Prize for the film best advocating the rights of children. The third prize, the Prize of the Audience, is selected by the cinema-goers. ■
“Sport talks“ with great potential
In the wake of the successful 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, an intensive exchange of information among Secretary of State Schweitzer, athletes and officials of numerous Austrian specialised sport associations took place at Supreme Hotel Bad Tatzmannsdorf from 5 to 6 November 2004. The meeting did not only focus on an objective analysis of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens but also offered a novel platform for a direct exchange of opinions and open talks among sponsors, athletes and officials on the subject “The promotion of top-level sports in Austria – a critical review by athletes and officials”. After a varied sports programme, the Secretary of State for Sports stressed in a short introduction that after the successful budget negotiations sport in Austria could be considered an absolute winner and that despite the excellent results achieved in Athens top-level sport was now facing new challenges. These additional resources had to be allocated in a useful and profitable way for sports. The constructive contributions and personal talks with 35 athletes and officials of 16 specialised sport associations showed that the trainer system, young talents as well as internal communication were clear priorities for the future. The participants unanimously demanded to create a market for professional trainers and to optimise basic and advanced training. Another idea which should be followed up on a continuous basis was to enhance the communication and coordination between officials, associations, athletes and above all trainers. The conclusion drawn was that together a new start would be made, stated Schweitzer and considered holding proactive gatherings of this kind at regular intervals. “The Top Sport Austria promotion scheme for top-level sports by has proved successful. Now we have to continue optimising it”, concluded Schweitzer. ■
Cristall gala in honour of the trainers and officials of the year 2004
At Vienna’s House of Lotteries this year no single person was elected “Trainer of the Year” but the quartet Georg Fundak, Steven Johannessen, Günter Amesberger and Florian Pernhaupt – for their decisive contribution to the success in Athens, where the tornado sailing team Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher had won gold and Andreas Geritzer (laser sailing) had been given a sliver medal. SVS Schwechat became the “Top Association of the Year” for its extensive cooperation with the municipality as well as the successful integration of all three umbrella associations. Margit Rader, board member of Sportunion and federal officer for fitness, wellness and health sports, was awarded the title “Top Official”. The “Women’s Power Award“ presented for the second time went to the Vienna Football Association for initiating Vienna’s “2nd Day of Girls’ Football”. Leo Wallner, President of the Austrian Olympic Committee, received the crystal trophy “Official of the Year”. The prizes were awarded by BSO President Franz Löschnak, Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat, Deputy Governor Liese Prokop and Secretary of State Schweitzer. ■
“EURO 2008“: stadium contracts for Championship submitted to UEFA
At the closing session of the Executive Committee of the European Football Union (Uefa) President Lennart Johansson and the Swiss and Austrian Football Associations signed the “Staging Agreement“, by which the contracts with the stadiums in Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Klagenfurt become binding. “Now Austria can concentrate on its EURO 2008 mandate. Austria is one of the safest countries in the world and the ideal venue for international sports events“, stressed Chancellor Schüssel. “We are convinced that we will have a perfect European Championship in 2008. We thank Austria for its commitment to European football“, concluded Johansson. ■