Culture, Media, Science
Chancellor Gusenbauer: increase in apprentices in the public sector
Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Federal Minister for Women, Media and Civil Service Doris Bures presented the interim results of the federal government’s training campaign for apprentices in a joint press conference. Bures highlighted the significant increase in apprenticeship places. Currently a total of 1,084 girls and boys serve as apprentices in the federal civil service. This is almost three times the number registered in 2004 and represents a new all-time high since 2002. At present, the Republic of Austria offers apprenticeship training to young people in 50 different occupations. According to Bures, the target was to boost the number of apprentices in 2007/2008 by five percent. Since the resolution of the Council of Ministers in May 2007 the number of apprentices in the federal civil service has, however, grown by no less than 16 percent. The campaign for apprentices also focuses on training girls in technical jobs. Thus the Federal Republic trains an increasing number of girls to become electrical engineers, carpenters, mechanical engineers, paperhangers and information technology experts. The share of female apprentices currently stands at slightly above 60 percent. During their apprenticeship, all young people have the opportunity of acquiring additional qualifications that are not offered on a standard basis in vocational schools. They may for example obtain the European Computer Driving Licence and attend language courses. Austria’s apprentices are also supported in preparing for the A-levels. During apprenticeship training they may take individual exams granting university access. The costs are borne by the federal government. Apprentices are also allowed to enhance their qualifications by working as trainees in the private sector. With this integrated approach to the training of apprentices, the federal government assumes social responsibility. Hence, young people in need of special support and with learning deficits may complete their apprenticeship over a longer training period or obtain partial qualifications.
Chancellor Gusenbauer highlighted the general improvement in the situation in the Austrian market for apprentices. In 2007 the number of girls and boys completing apprenticeship training rose by 3,000 from the level of 2006. “I will not be satisfied unless the government’s training guarantee for all young people under 18 has become a reality. To achieve this, we are con-ducting talks with the social partners“, stated the Chancellor. He explicitly pointed out that the future demand for skilled workers could only be met by providing teens in Austria with the necessary skills. A reform of the so-called “Blum bonus” (for companies taking on apprentices) formed part of the negotiations with the social partners. By way of conclusion, Gusenbauer pled for intensifying measures to promote training in the technical trades, while Minister Bures called for stronger support for companies training girls in non-traditional occupations. ■
Austrian civil servants are to receive higher salaries in 2008
Based on an agreement reached by the government and the trade union on 1 December 2007, Austria’s civil servants will benefit from a 2.7 percent salary increase and a one-time bonus of 175 euros in 2008. The salary increase will entail costs amounting to 310 million euros. Fritz Neugebauer, chairman of the civil servants’ trade union, referred to “a very good result”, Civil Service Minister Doris Bures described the deal as “fair and affordable“. Originally the Minister had offered a salary increase by 2.3 percent, while the trade union had demanded 3.6 percent. Head of the Institute for Advanced Studies (HIS) Bernhard Felderer considered the result “acceptable” but generally called for more belt-tightening in wage and salary negotiations. ■
Births become exempted from fees
The government recently decided to exempt births from administrative fees. Fees for birth certificates, nationality documents and entering the child into the parents’ passports will soon be abolished. Moreover, the administrative burden will be reduced. Parents will no longer have to find their way through a maze of red tape; it will suffice to register the newborn with one authority. Gusenbauer: “We want to introduce a one-stop-shop rule so that parents have to contact just one authority after the birth of their child. The rest will be done by the public administration on behalf of the parents“. ■
Results of Kosovo talks are to be presented in Vienna
The last round of negotiations between Kosovo Albanians and the Serbian leadership recently failed in Baden near Vienna. Belgrade is not prepared to accept independence of the province under UN administration since 1999 as demanded by Priština but only offers an autonomy status. The final report of the Kosovo troika – Wolfgang Ischinger (EU), Frank Wisner (USA) and Alexander Botsan-Kharshenko (Russia) – is to be presented in Vienna on 9 December 2007 to the Kosovo contact group consisting of four EU Member States as well as the USA and Russia before the UN Security Council will deliberate on it on 19 December 2007. Russia vetoed a proposal for Kosovo’s independence in this forum in July. Subsequently, a troika was formed which had the task of making another attempt at solving the Kosovo issue in direct talks between Belgrade and Priština.
Ursula Plassnik, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, commented on the future of Kosovo: “Security in Kosovo will ultimately be only possible if it is guaranteed to all those living there. It is simply unacceptable to exclude parts of the population of Kosovo and not to guarantee their fundamental rights. The international community may only make a contribution to a secure environment. But the main responsibility lies with the government of Kosovo – regardless of its name or its composition – and the Kosovars themselves, who have to ensure an environment in which the other is accepted and the respective identities can be lived freely.” ■
PISA: Austria among the average
PISA – “Programme for International Student Assessment“ – is a large-scale educational study programme to assess the skills and knowledge of 15/16-year-olds in science, reading and mathematics at regular intervals, on a standardised basis as well as for international comparison. In each survey one “main domain” is tested very thoroughly, while literacy in the other domains is assessed in more general performance profiles. After PISA focused on reading in 2000 and mathematics in 2003, PISA 2006 concentrated on assessing performance in science. PISA is coordinated and implemented by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
In Austria the PISA study is conducted on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture (BMUKK). The Project Centre for Comparative Educational Science (ZVB) at Salzburg University is responsible for international cooperation and acts as Austria’s national project manager.
The results of the PISA study 2006 for Austria show hardly any changes compared to the previous assessments. The pupils scored one point less in reading and mathematics but slightly moved up the world ranking. The changes are of minor statistical relevance.
The PISA study findings will be presented officially in Austria by Federal Minister Claudia Schmied and others in Vienna on 4 December 2007.
According to the new PISA study, South Korea became number one in reading, while Finland is first in mathematics.
In the meantime new complaints have been voiced about the PISA study. According to a report published in the German news magazine “Der Spiegel“, pupils in the USA, the Netherlands and Slovenia were granted money or holidays for participating in the test. ■
Ursula Plassnik informs about the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Conference in Geneva
On 30 November 2007 the 30th International Red Cress and Red Crescent Movement Conference was concluded successfully in Geneva.
Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik explained that in view of the countless international conflicts it was “one of our main tasks to strengthen humanitarian international law“. Issues considered vital by Austria are inter alia to adopt and implement the ban on cluster munitions as well as the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, to raise awareness about humanitarian international law among journalists and opinion- makers as well as to integrate young migrants by appropriate measures at school and to encourage the participation in voluntary services such as the Youth Red Cross. ■
Austria wants to climb to the top with radical innovation
At the event “Future Dialogue on Innovation for Austria”, Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer championed a stronger focus on “radical” innovation and an “optimisation of the research promotion portfolio”. Innovation projects of a risky nature are to be supported in the future, especially in the field of environment, energy and transport. Gusenbauer described the fact that currently numerous players shared competences in research in Austria as problematic. It should be Austria’s objective to catch up with the world leaders in technology. To this end, a joint innovation strategy involving all the relevant stakeholders should be developed. Austria had to succeed in realising a structural change towards high technology and knowledge-intensive services. To enhance the Austrian research infrastructure, the Chancellor pled for continuing the institutional reforms of universities and extramural research institutions. At the same time human resources had to be strengthened, e.g. by measures promoting equal opportunities.
Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Finance Wilhelm Molterer described Austria’s starting position as favourable. Since 2003 Austria’s economy had been growing more significantly than that of the remaining euro-zone. However, one had to recognise that other countries like Finland were already setting themselves higher targets than those Austria was currently trying to achieve. If we want to move up among Europe’s top three, the leaders, rather than the average must be our standard”, said Molterer.
Former Finnish Prime Minister and President of the Finnish Innovation Fund Esko Aho explained that Finland’s success was for example due to substantial investments in the educational system after WWII., the early liberalisation of markets, e.g. the telecommunications sector in the 1980s, as well as the timely decision to invest heavily in research and development. In 1980 the Finnish research ratio had been only 1 percent but today it stood at about 3.5 percent. Another “factor of success” in Finland was the severe economic crisis in the early 1990s, which provided a stimulus to shift resources from agriculture to other sectors like industry and science. Despite the crisis, Finland then succeeded in increasing the research ratio and in developing market for venture capital.
As far as Europe is concerned, Aho demanded to create markets for innovative products and services as well as adequate resources for research and development. The necessary funds were available, in the current EU budget period about 300 billion euros were earmarked for structural funds. Furthermore, it was vital to develop a positive attitude to entrepreneurial spirit and risk. ■
EU Report: Austria’s employment rate exceeds 70 percent threshold
In 2006 employment in the EU reached the highest growth rate since 2000. According to a report of the European Commission, the EU recorded an increase in the number of employed persons by 4 million. Austria registered a plus of 1.6 percent, pushing the national employment rate to 70.2 percent. The EU had set a target of about 70 percent to be reached by 2010.
Employment rates of more than 70% were not only reached by Austria but also by Denmark (77.4 percent), the Netherlands (74.3 percent), Sweden (73.1 percent) and Great Britain (71.5 percent). The average employment rate of the EU-27 rose to 64.3 percent in 2006.
With a women’s share in employment of 63.5 percent, Austria exceeded another EU target. However, Austria is clearly lagging behind the EU target of 50 percent for the employment of older workers. In 2006 35.5 percent of the older Austrian population were employed, while this ratio stood at 43.5 percent across the remaining EU. ■
“The Economist“ presents a “Special Report on Austria“
The British financial magazine “The Economist“ has dedicated “special reports” to Austria for more than 25 years. The economically and socially successful country had benefited strongly from the fall of the Iron Curtain and EU accession. Austrian companies had taken advantage of the opportunities in Eastern Europe. This was the reason for growth above the EU average. A policy of consensus had also shown favourable effects. The magazine identified a need for reforms in developing infrastructure and boosting competition, in the services sector and the educational system. ■
Vienna: Queen Silvia of Sweden opened show about Josef Frank
Queen Silvia of Sweden and Margit Fischer, the wife of the Austrian Federal President, opened the exhibition “Josef Frank. Architect and Outsider“ at the Judenplatz Museum on 21 November 2007 in the presence of numerous guests of honour such as Vienna’s Vice-Mayor Renate Brauner and President of the Jewish Religious Community (IKG) Ariel Muzicant. Director of the Jewish Museum Karl Albrecht-Weinberger praised Frank as one of the most important architects of the 20th century. Working for Svenskt Tenn in Sweden, Frank designed simple-classic furniture which has not lost its appeal to date. ■
Israel and Upper Austria plan culture and science transfer
Israel and Upper Austria envisage to engage in an intense transfer of culture and science. This was agreed on by Israeli Minister for Science and Sport Galeb Majadle and Upper Austrian Governor Josef Pühringer at a meeting in Jerusalem held in the framework of the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) Peace Light from Bethlehem campaign. Cooperation is to cover alternative energies, mechatronics and nanotechnology as well as participation in the European Cultural Capital Linz 2009. Major projects are planned by Johannes Kepler University in Linz and the Upper Austrian technical universities with Israeli research centres like the renowned Weizmann Institute. Joint work in EU research projects is to be continued. Cultural contacts will be intensified. Israel was invited to participate in the preparations for the European Cultural Capital Linz 2009. Among the projects planned is an exhibition on Upper Austrian art during the NS period to be staged in the regional museums. ■
EURO 2008: interesting exhibition on football
Even though Austria’s national football team is so far placed last in the world ranking, this sport is still very popular in Austria. The Austrians can get into the mood for EURO 2008 – the European Football Championship in Austria and Switzerland – by several exhibitions which will open already in spring 2008. The show “herz.rasen“ at Künstlerhaus in Vienna will be at the heart of this concept. The interactive exhibition is realised by the Technical Museum on behalf of the image platform “2008 – Austria on the ball“ and is fully devoted to the fascination of football (opening on 4 April 2008). About 100,000 visitors are expected. The exhibition “Hohe Warte, Hütteldorf, Simmering – Viennese football venues“ designed by Wien Museum is expected to offer exciting insights into the 1930s in Vienna, a glorious football era but socially difficult period (opening on 24 April 2008). The aim of the show is to tell the history of football as a history of the city and to present a social topography of football culture – from the early days in Prater and in Heiligenstadt, kicking on the wild grass on the city outskirts between factories and social housing complexes for workers, to the present-day “football cages”. The exhibition staged at the Vienna City and Regional Library also turns the spotlight on the 1930s and the legendary Austrian football team with its genius Matthias Sindelar, displaying numerous photos and written documents. The special exhibition for children titled “Ballgeschichten – Fallgeschichten“ (“The history of the ball and of the fall”) investigating the ball as a physical and philosophical phenomenon is kicked off at ZOOM Children’s Museum in Vienna’s art district Museumsquartier (MQ) on 4 March 2008. This exhibition invites children older than three years to participate actively and describes the historical development of the ball made from animal skin to the high-tech ball. A lot can also be learned about the laws of falling, the rules of the game and famous football heroes.
At the Linz Palace Museum the exhibition “Football Culture – History and Present of a Sport“ will be inaugurated on 29 April 2008. The original interactive exhibition will be composed of “drawings, caricatures and poems by Friedrich Torberg, Bert Brecht and Peter Handke“ and trace all aspects of football history, including football as a contemporary mass phenomenon of globalisation. The Museum of Modern Art Carinthia presents an art project on football in the public space. The city centre of Klagenfurt will be transformed into an over-size football pitch. Switzerland, European champion in 1924, is planning a touring exhibition. ■
Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer launches video podcast
It is the aim of the Federal Chancellery (BKA) to provide optimal Internet access. Therefore the latest online service is barrier-free. The Chancellery’s video podcast offers subtitles that can be activated and deactivated. It is also available in Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS). The web offer of the Chancellery has been enhanced by a video podcast of Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, i.e. a message in which the Chancellor comments on topical issues. It will be updated when required but on average every two weeks. In his first podcast statement the Chancellor presented his reflections on a “long-term innovation strategy for Austria”.
The Austrian Federal Chancellor is not the first head of government to choose this communication strategy. The German Federal Chancellor started her weekly video podcast “Angela Merkel – The Chancellor Direct” in June 2006. Her first podcast video registered about 55,000 hits. ■
MUSA: Federal President Fischer visits Harry Weber’s photo show
Accompanied by Vienna’s Executive City Councillor for Culture Andreas Mailath-Pokorny and Marianne Weber, Federal President Heinz Fischer recently visited the Museum on Demand (MUSA), which presents the exhibition “The Vienna Project” paying homage to the outstanding Austrian photo artist Harry Weber (1921-2007). Fischer was a friend of Weber and greatly appreciates his photographic art. Harry Weber’s photos of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 became world famous.
The City of Vienna granted him an opportunity to devote himself entirely to themes chosen by him by commissioning him to do this project only when he was very old. In 2003 he started to explore his native city Vienna (which had not always treated him very nicely) with a digital camera. By 2007 he had taken about 30,000 photos. A fascinating selection of 200 photos is on show at MUSA until 16 February 2008. These works – called “fringe photos” by Weber – were his main interest as they often revealed the hidden true meaning of an event or the character of a person. ■
Urania: moving film about children’s transports from Vienna in 1938
Almost 10,000 Jewish children from Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic were taken to England in so-called “children’s transports” between December 1938 and August 1939 to save them from persecution by the NS regime. Deborah Oppenheimer, the producer and director of the film and daughter of one of these “children”, started to collect material (photos, letters, diaries, interviews, etc.) after the death of her mother for her documentary “In eine Fremde Welt – Der Film“. It shows very sensitively how some of these “children” survived – with their memories of the past, their lives in England, their search for family members. Often they were the only survivors, only few of them found their parents after WWII. The moving film which won an Oscar for the best documentary in 2000 was realised with the support of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for the Victims of National Socialism, the Ministry of Education, Art and Culture, the Ministry of European and International Affairs, the Austrian Friends of Givat Haviva in cooperation with Vienna Lectures and the daily “Die Presse“.
Deborah Oppenheimer and the “children” invited, e.g. Berta Leverton, who presents her story in the film, will be available for questions after the screening on 11 and 12 December 2007 at 7 p.m. in Vienna’s Urania. ■
Film Archives Austria pay homage to Peter Handke, Wim Wenders, Erika Pluhar
Film Archives Austria will soon offer a real treat to cinemagoers. With a special programme dedicated to Peter Handke and the cinema (ending on 7 January 2008), homage is paid to Peter Handke, who will celebrate his 65th birthday on 6 December 2007. Rare films such as “The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty“ (director: Wim Wenders) based on Handke’s novel of the same title; Helmut Lohner reading from “A Sorrow Beyond Dreams“ (director: Wolfgang Glück), “Wrong Move“ (director: Wenders, script: Handke), “Short Letter, Long Farewell (Herbert Vesely), “The Left-Handed Woman“ (director: Handke), “The Malady of Death” (director: Handke), “Wings of Desire” (director: Wenders, script co-author: Handke) and “Absence“ (director: Handke).
A second programme offered by Film Archives Austria from 1 December 2007 to 7 January 2008 is titled “Wim Wenders. Films 1968 to 1987“. Master pieces by the German director such as “Summer in the City“, “A Scarlett Letter“, “Alice in the Cities“, “Kings of the Road“, “The American Friend“ and, last but not least, “Paris, Texas“ can be watched.
Between 13 December 2007 and 7 January 2008 a retrospective of superb films (some of which have fallen into oblivion) is presented, starring Viennese actress Erika Pluhar, e.g. “Die Möwe“ (director: Wolfgang Glück), “Moss on the Stones“ (Georg Lhotzky), “Bel Ami“ (director: Helmut Käutner), “Dance of Love“ (director: Otto Schenk), “Der Schwierige“ (director: Stanislav Barabas), “The Brothers“ (director: Wolfgang Krenn), “Rosalinas Haus“ (director/script: Erika Pluhar) and “Mrs. Klein“ (director: Ingemo Engström). ■
Austrian National Library: ancient road map is world cultural heritage
The “Tabula Peutingeriana“, the only preserved map of the road network of the Roman Empire, is one of the most valuable objects of the Collection of Manuscripts of the Austrian National Library (ÖNB). The map, which is nearly seven meters long but only about 34 cm wide, was added to UNESCO’s world cultural heritage list. On 26 November 2007 ÖNB Director General Johanna Rachinger presented it to a selected audience at the ceremony held on this occasion. The map which was created in the 12th or 13th century as a copy of the original dating back to the late classical period is named after its former owner Konrad Peutinger, the town secretary (Ratsschreiber) from Augsburg, whose family owned the tabula until 1714. Then it was traded by book sellers until Prince Eugene of Savoy acquired this rarity in 1720 for 100 ducats and left it after his death to the Imperial Court Library. The tabula depicts “the entire civilised world” of the 4th and 5th century as Rachinger explained. It stretches from Spain to India, from Britain to North Africa. While according to the most common cartographic convention the north is at the top of the map, the tabula shows a predominantly west-east orientation – otherwise the condensed depiction on a width of 34 cm would not have been possible. The Mediterranean Sea is presented as a small strip of water. Not surprisingly, Rome was in the centre. With its schematic representation of the most important routes, the map served as an additional source to the written documents then used by travellers. About 4,000 settlements (not even half of them can be reconstructed today) can be seen on the map. Christian places of pilgrimage do not play an important role on the tabula. The Medieval copyist of the original was probably more interested in an authentic historical reproduction than in the goals of Christianisation.
The tabula was only put on display at the ceremony as it is extremely sensitive to day light. A new facsimile edition is planned.
After inclusion of the tabula in the UNESCO world cultural heritage list in the framework of the Memory of the World Programme, Austria boasts ten entries. Jointly with Germany, it is at the top of the list of the 59 countries included in the register. ■
Secretary of State Marek awards Public Relations State Prize
“Professional public relations work is indispensable for the competitiveness of companies and the key to success in national and international markets“, explained Secretary of State Christine Marek at the award ceremony of the PR State Prize 2007 in Vienna’s Museumsquartier (MQ) on 28 November 2007. The Prize went to SPAR Austria and alphaaffairs for the SPAR school competition “Check your snack with Jack the Snack“.
Moreover, five projects were awarded the title “state prize nominees”, e.g. the 2007 Impulse Campaign of the Austrian Public Employment Service“, „BAUfair against the shadow economy“, “reading circle – books connecting the generations“, “A Simple Switch! Austria switches. From the filament lamp to the energy-saving lamp” and “Point of contact – youth without network”, realised by Austria’s Permanent Committee of Ombudspeople for Children and Youth and currycom communications GmbH. The PR State Prize has been awarded annually since 1984 by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour. ■
EURO 2008: all Groups offer fascinating football matches
The results of the finals draw in Lucerne for UEFA EURO 2008 (7 to 29 June 2008) have been announced.
At the European Championship finals in its own country Austria’s national football team will meet Croatia, Poland and Germany in Group B. The team of the Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB) will face with Croatia in the opening match on 8 June 2008 and meet Poland on 12 June 2008. The match Austria against the favoured World Cup third Germany takes place on 16 June 2008.
Co-host Switzerland opens the tournament against the Czechs in Group A in Basel on 7 June 2008 and also faces Turkey and Portugal in this Group.
Group C is expected to be the most difficult one, bringing the two World Cup finalists Italy and France face to face again, with the Netherlands and Romania joining them.
Group D, which will have Salzburg and Innsbruck as the venue, is composed of the title holders Greece, Sweden, Spain and Russia. The Greek will play all three matches in Salzburg. ■
Austria was on the ball at the “finals draw ceremony” in Lucerne
The Austrian federal government was represented by Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, Minister of the Interior Günther Platter and Secretary of State for Sport Reinhold Lopatka at the draw ceremony of the four Groups for UEFA EURO 2008 TM in Lucerne.
Among the attendees were high-ranking delegations of the Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB), led by ÖFB President Friedrich Stickler, ÖFB team coach Josef Hickersberger and ÖFB EURO ambassador Andreas Herzog, as well as delegations of the host cities (Vienna, Klagenfurt, Salzburg, Innsbruck) and the respective Länder. “Austria on the ball” coordinator Heinz Palme was also present.
In the preliminaries of the draw in Lucerne’s Congress and Culture Centre, the government delegation met with Samuel Schmid, member of the Swiss Federal Council, for an official break-fast. The talks focused on common topics concerning the preparations for EURO 2008. ■
“SPORT:DIALOGUE“ – EURO 2008 ambassadors
192 days before the beginning of UEFA EURO 2008 and 4 days before the draw of the four Groups in Lucerne all 16 countries participating in EURO 2008 gathered around a table on invitation by the Secretariat of State for Sport. At the information event “SPORT:DIALOGUE“ staged for the ambassadors of the EURO participants, the diplomats showed great interest in the progress of preparations. The ambassadors were provided with up-to-date information by UEFA tournament director Christian Schmölzer, representatives of the economy and tourism (Petra Stolba, Austrian National Tourist Office, René Siegl, manager of Austrian Business Agency, and Ingrid Krenn-Ditz, EURO project head of the Economic Chamber Austria) and of the ministries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior informed about the agreement on facilitating visa procedures during EURO, which were important news for the ambassadors. There will be a joint “EURO visa” with Switzerland. As requested by several ambassadors, additional EURO 2008 information meetings will be held. ■
Tribute to junior team coach Paul Gludovatz
The “Cristall Gala 2007“ awards went to role models representing the heart, brains and soul of sport. Paul Gludovatz received an award as the most successful junior team coach of the Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB). With his help, the ÖFB’s U-20 national team moved up to rank 4 in the World Cup in Canada. aon hotVolleys won the title “top sports club 2007”, the best women’s project was the women’s marathon organised by Ilse Dippmann. Sonja Spendelhofer (track-and-field) and Karl Wurm (American Football) became the top sports officials. TV moderator Armin Assinger was selected sports ambassador of the year. ■