Culture, Media, Science
Parliament: swearing-in of new Members of Parliament
The newly elected first chamber of Parliament (Nationalrat) held its inaugural session on 30 October 2006, ushering in the XXIII. legislative period. In the presence of Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer, the 183 Members of Parliament took an oath of allegiance to the Austrian Constitution.
After bidding farewell to the previous Speaker Andreas Khol (ÖVP), the new Speakers Barbara Prammer, (SPÖ; Speaker), Michael Spindelegger (ÖVP; Second Speaker) and Eva Glawischnig (Greens; Third Speaker) were elected. Prammer, SPÖ chief of women’s affairs, is the first woman in the Austrian history to chair Parliament. She had previously held the office of the Second Speaker. Glawischnig is the first representative of the Greens in this office.
In her inaugural address, Prammer praised the constructive approach of her predecessor Khol seeking consensus and promised to continue his efforts to facilitate access to Parliament.
The SPÖ (Social Democratic Party of Austria) has 68 members in the new Parliament, followed by the ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) with 66. The Greens (The Greens) and FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) each hold 21 seats; while the BZÖ (Alliance for the Future of Austria) won 7 seats. In the first plenary session, the SPÖ, Greens and FPÖ adopted resolutions to set up inquiry boards on the Eurofighter military jets and several banking scandals (BAWAG, Hypo Alpe-Adria, financial market supervision). ■
Coalition talks between SPÖ and ÖVP suspended
Outgoing Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, party chairman of the People’s Party (ÖVP), and Wilhelm Molterer, managing the business of the ÖVP parliamentary group, announced in a press conference on 5 November 2006 that the coalition talks with the Social Democrats (SPÖ) would be resumed only after the end of investigations by the inquiry boards on the Eurofighter interceptors and the banking scandals. According to the ÖVP, this was possible by Christmas. The programmatic talks with the SPÖ could then be finished within three weeks, stated Schüssel. ■
Labour market: record level of new jobs
According to the Austrian Public Employment Agency (AMS) the number of jobseekers reintegrated into the labour market reached a record level. Between January and September 2006, a total of 402,408 jobseekers found a new job with the support of the AMS. This corresponds to an increase by 16,201 persons or 4.2% from the prior-year level, informed the AMS on 24 October 2006.
A 10-year comparison shows that the number of newly employed persons increased by about 67,400 or 20%. The reasons for this favourable trend were the dynamic development of the labour market and the significant increase in vacancies and qualification programmes offered by the AMS, stated AMS chief Johannes Kopf. 70% of the jobseekers participating in qualification programmes found a job within six months after the end of the training, stressed Kopf.
The number of unemployed in Austria continues to drop. However, at the same time the number of jobless persons undergoing training is increasing. In October 2006 277,561 persons were without job; out of this total, 214,606 were unemployed (almost 23,000 persons less than in October 2005) and 62,955 participated in training programmes (almost 10,000 more than one year earlier). Youth unemployment decreased by 12.5% (minus 5,321) to 37,199 in October 2006 compared to October 2005.
To Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel the “significant decline in unemployment” is a proof that the government’s approach has been right. Labour Minister Martin Bartenstein perceives another “trend reversal in the labour market“. ■
Austrian bishops prepare papal visit
The Austrian Bishop’s Conference meets on 6 November 2006 for its autumn session. The key topic is the papal visit on the occasion of the 850 anniversary of the place of pilgrimage Mariazell in September 2007. Another item on the agenda of the meeting is the present situation of the society and Church in Austria. The meeting will start with a “day of studies on Islam”. On 8 November 2006 Federal President Heinz Fischer will host a reception. ■
President Fischer participates in tripartite meeting at Lake Constance
On 6 November 2006 Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer meets with his counterparts from Germany and Switzerland, Horst Köhler and Moritz Leuenberger, at the traditional tripartite summit in Meersburg at Lake Constance (Germany).
Hereditary Prince Alois von Liechtenstein will also participate in the meeting, where EU issues and the current political situation will be discussed.
The demographic change in the German-speaking countries will be another important topic for discussion, which will also cover the restructuring of social systems, family policy and migration/integration policies. ■
Foundation of the International Trade Union Confederation in Vienna
In the presence of Austrian President Heinz Fischer, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) was founded in Vienna’s Trade Fair Centre on 31 October 2006. The Social Democrats’ International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL) based on Christian ideas merged into one organisation after the two trade unions had been dissolved. About 1,600 delegates from 160 nations participated in the foundation ceremony.
Never before “in the history of the trade union movement had there been an assembly that big”, stated former Secretary-General of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Emilio Gabaglio, who had taken the lead in founding the new organisation. The trade union movement had suffered from a split in the past but now a new chapter has been started, said Gabaglio.
In his opening statement, Federal President Fischer hailed the ITUC’s commitment to peace and declared himself “a loyal supporter of the trade union idea”. This was an “important and integral part of a democratic society“. After this historic merger, the task ahead was to “look for allies”, said Fischer.
Rudolf Hundstorfer, President of the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (ÖGB) called on the trade union movement not to become idle. He also emphasised that in Austria the cooperation between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats had a long tradition.
Guy Ryder was elected ITUC Secretary-General in Vienna. The ITUC headquarters are in Brussels. ■
Plassnik: Vienna is the hub in international safety architecture
Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik welcomed the resolution of the UN General Assembly of 31 October 2006, in which Vienna was selected as the venue of the next Preparatory Committee meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. The meeting will be held from 30 April to 11 May 2007.
According to the press release issued on 1 November 2006, Plassnik described this fact as “another token of acknowledgment of the significance of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and a tribute to Vienna as a venue of important international meetings“. This allowed Vienna to strengthen its role as a centre of nuclear disarmament and a hub in the international safety architecture”, stressed Plassnik. ■
Federal President Fischer: Islam is firmly rooted in Austria
At a reception hosted for the Chairman of the Islamic Community Anas Shakfeh on 24 October 2006 to mark the end of Ramadan, President Fischer emphasised that Islam had been firmly rooted in Austria since 1912. Delicate situations in the recent past had been settled through the readiness to engage in dialogue. The response to disagreement could only be dialogue, stated Fischer. The head of state highlighted the constructive cooperation of the Federal President, government and public authorities with the institutions of the Islamic Community.
Shakfeh rejected all forms of extremism and emphasised the motto “integration by participation“. Islam was a sensible religion. He distanced himself from all those rejecting the fundamental principles of the state. Whoever did so, made himself an outsider. The Islamic Community “fully and entirely agreed” with the rule of law in Austria, said Shakfeh. ■
Austrians remain savings deposits world champions
Austrians remain savings deposits world champions but at the same time they are no longer so sceptical about shares. These seemingly contradictory aspects are the main findings of an analysis of the current savings behaviour of the Austrians presented by the Austrian National Bank (OeNB) on 24 October 2006 in Vienna.
The financial assets of the Austrians increased by about 11 billion euro over the first six months, totalling 367 billion euro at mid-year 2006. This is 2.5 times the disposable income and exceeds the prior-year level by about 6%. After deducting credit indebtedness of 135 billion euro, the net financial assets amount to 232 billion euro. Almost one third of the total financial assets of the Austrian private households – 132 billion euro – are deposited in 23 million savings bank books. This was 70% more than ten years ago, emphasised OeNB Director Peter Zöllner.
The undisputed favourite of investors is the savings bank book. About half of the private assets are invested in savings bank books in Austria. According to the National Bank, this is the world record. 85% of the households have at least one savings bank book. More than one fifth (21%) of the assets are invested in savings of a provident nature (insurances, pension funds). Securities account for the remaining 28%: 6% listed shares, 11% investment fund certificates and 8% interest-bearing securities.
Despite the great propensity to save of the Austrians, investments in shares are becoming more popular. “More and more people are realising that investments in shares yield higher returns in the long run, stated Zöllner. An international comparison shows that Austria is approaching “an average level”. ■
Martin Bartenstein: Austria supports fast WTO entry of Russia
Austria supported Russia’s WTO entry, if possible already in 2007, as it would benefit both sides and in particular help improving the economic relations between Russia and the European Union, said Minister for Economics Martin Bartenstein on 27 October 2006 at the 10th meeting of the mixed Austrian-Russian Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation in Kaluga (Russia).
Bartenstein stressed the significance of Russia as an energy partner of the EU and called on Russia to ratify the energy charter. If Russia granted access to Russian gas pipelines and gas deposits for European enterprises, the EU would welcome further Russian investments, e.g. by the Russian Gazprom. Hence, the aim was to create fair conditions for both sides, said Bartenstein.
Bilateral relations were also discussed. Russia has become an important economic partner of Austria in the past years. In 2005 Austrian exports to Russia rose by 22.4% to a record level of 1.7 billion euro. Imports from Russia surged by 61.2%, reaching an all-time high of 2.26 billion euro. ■
Post AG buys German logistics services provider trans-o-flex
Österreichische Post AG acquired the German logistics services provider trans-o-flex. The deal was closed on 30 October 2006. Österreichische Post AG CEO Anton Wais told journalists that this was quite momentous. The enterprise listed on the stock exchange since the beginning of this year wants to change its growth strategy radically. In the future Österreichische Post AG would focus on all of Europe and not limit itself to building networks in South Eastern Europe, said Wais.
The goodwill of trans-o-flex is reported to be 225 million euro. The deal will be realised by acquiring two stakes – 74.9% and 25.1% - and is expected to be concluded by May 2009. trans-o-flex allows the Austrian company to take control over Germany-wide logistics networks for business parcels and pallets. It is the German market leader in transport services for healthcare and laboratory products. ■
Germany: Austrian “Entrepreneur of the Year“
CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Wolfgang Mayrhuber (59) from Austria, was awarded the title “Entrepreneur of the Year” in Berlin on 2 November 2006. Mayrhuber was given this distinction for his achievements for the German economy. ■
Mozart Year Vienna 2006: Sellars’ “New Crowned Hope“ festival
“New Crowned Hope“ is the title Artistic Director Peter Sellars selected for the festival he conceived on behalf of the City of Vienna to mark the 250 anniversary of the birthday of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart. The name is drawn from the Freemasons’ lodge “Zur neugekrönten Hoffnung“ (New Crowned Hope) co-founded by Mozart before his death. Just like his fatherly friend Joseph Haydn, Mozart was one of the thinkers and citizens who were not only concerned about the further development of their art but were also deeply involved in imagining the “next” Europe, a Europe beyond autocracy.
Based on the works “The Magic Flute”, “La clemenza di Tito“ and “Requiem“ created by Mozart in his last year of life in Vienna, Sellars invited some of the world’s most unique artistic voices from music theatre and dance, film, music, visual art and architecture to explore the future relevance of Mozart’s message.
In the framework of the programme “The Next Vienna“, interdisciplinary art projects encompassing sociology, urban ethnology, architecture, integration or network communication are developed using media such as photography, music and visual arts. The aim is to explore new approaches to an integrative understanding between the generations, cultures and disadvantaged groups in Vienna.
“New Crowned Hope“ cooperates with NGOs such as Caritas (including Refugio, a shelter for unaccompanied underage refugees), pro mente (an institution for mental patients), municipal institutions like the recently built “Haus Siemensstraße” for homeless men, the Schöpf-werk youth centre, Bassena am Schöpfwerk, the women’s home FrauenWohnZentrum opened in December 2005 as well as educational institutions like the Vienna University of Applied Arts and the training programme for social workers in Vienna.
Since March 2005 Peter Sellars has been teaching as a guest professor at the Institute of Architecture of the University for Applied Arts in Vienna. Working on a cooperative basis with the studio of university professor Wolf D. Prix of the architects’ group Coop Himmel(b)lau, Sellars is leading an interdisciplinary studio titled “Enlightenment, Theory and Practice“. Responding to the guiding themes “transformation, reconciliation, remembrance“ postulated by Sellars for the “New Crowned Hope“ festival, students and graduates of the degree programmes architecture, landscape design, fine arts, art pedagogy and graphic design developed joint projects taking into account social aspects. They are now on show at the Vienna Architecture Centre (Architekturzentrum Wien).
With its pioneering projects, Vienna – a city located in the centre of a new and enlarging Europe – also wants to set an example in the combat against the widening social gap and for more social justice. ■
Morak: prizes as a contribution to a barrier-free society
“The prizes should be a visible sign of recognition and appreciation – both of the creativity of people with disabilities and of successful activities devoted to the social integration of people with disabilities. The aim is to raise the awareness of the entire population of the manifold talents of people with disabilities and their sustainable social integration”, stated Secretary of State for Art and Media Franz Morak on conferring the Prizes Promoting Art and Culture Projects for the Integration of People with Disabilities 2006.
The Prize was founded in 2003, the European Year of People with Disabilities, and has been awarded since then annually. In 2006 for the first time three prizes have been granted: to “Kunstwerkstatt de La Tour” of the Diaconate of Carinthia, to “LINUM – Verein für Handwerk und Kunst unserer Zeit” (an association dedicated to contemporary crafts and arts) in Pürbach (Lower Austria) and to “prenn.punkt: büro für kommunikation und gestaltung” in Alkoven (Upper Austria).
“The award-winning projects range from groups active for several decades to pioneering projects”, said Secretary of State for Art and Media Morak. The prizes are an additional measure of support complementing programmes promoting art projects in social contexts or socio-cultural projects introduced by the Federal Chancellery many years ago.
“Kunstwerkstatt de La Tour” of the Diaconate of Carinthia has been one of the oldest studios for people with disabilities in Austria, existing for
25 years. It publishes for example scholarly catalogues and organises internationally acclaimed exhibitions of the artists’ works.
The project “LINUM“ was developed in the framework of the Waldviertel Festival 2006 and will be continued at Hoftheater Pürbach and Weitra Palace in 2007. Under the guidance of experts, people with mental and psychical disabilities design fabric prints, patterns and clothes, which are presented in a public fashion show and performance.
prenn.punkt developed a “barrier-free design” allowing people with disabilities to experience art and culture events such as exhibitions and concerts without having to overcome barriers. The development of multisensorial guidance systems, acoustic and audio descriptions, among them a tactile Church guide, enable blind, deaf or mobility-impaired people to participate in the artistic and cultural life. ■
Bode Museum in Berlin restored based on the plans by Heinz Tesar
Berlin’s Museum Island boasts another spectacular building. After a makeover of almost eight years, the Bode Museum – named after Wilhelm von Bode, who suggested to Crown Prince and later Emperor Frederick III. to build an art museum – has recently been reopened ceremoniously. The outstanding work of Austrian architect Heinz Tesar has been acclaimed internationally as a “stroke of genius in the art of restoration”. The museum palace located on the southern tip of the museum island complex – declared world cultural heritage by UNESCO – was reconstructed on the basis of Tesar’s plans. The neo-Baroque Kaiser Friedrich Museum had been built between 1897 and 1904 by court architect Eberhard von Ihne, as a monument in the great tradition of Prussia, rivalling the great art museums in Vienna and Paris. In an imperial mission, founding director von Bode created a treasury of the European cultural heritage. Today the Museum accommodates the collection of sculptures, the numismatics collection, the Byzantine era collection as well as 150 paintings by old masters. Exhibited in 67 light-flooded halls on three floors with a total surface of 6,600m2, the works of art now “have a chance to breathe”, said the President of the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz), Klaus-Dieter Lehmann.
By 2015 the overall revamp of Berlin’s museum island complex will be completed. With its wide spectrum of works of art, it will probably outshine the Louvre in Paris and the Prado in Madrid. ■
MAK presents spectacular poster designs
Since 1966 the competition “100 best posters” has explored new tendencies in communication design. Having established itself as a tradition in Germany, the competition is becoming a benchmark for industrial graphic design in Austria and Germany. In the exhibition “100 Best Posters 05. Germany Austria Switzerland”, the results of the competition held between 22 November and 10 December 2006 are for the first time accessible to the public – at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna. The majority of competition entries tried to enhance the perceptive habits of the onlookers. An international jury selected the best posters from 1,500 individual posters of 471 entries filed. The prize-winning posters – 69 from Germany, 28 from Switzerland and three from Austria – do not only stand out for the variety of themes and designs. They were created by poster designers, agencies and graphic design studios as well as students of art universities and colleges, ranging between professional design often characterised by compromise and experimental work reflecting the freedom of the individual artist’s mission. ■
Yiddish Theatre from Montreal at Theater Akzent in Vienna
Schalom Asch, one of the most important Jewish dramatists and writers, was born in Kutno (Poland). As one of ten children of an innkeeper, he received a traditional Jewish education. Influenced by the Yiddish writer Itzchak Leib Perez, he started to write in Yiddish. During World War I. and after 1938 Schalom Asch lived in the USA. He spent his last years in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv. There his house was converted into the Schalom Asch Museum. With his controversial late work he wanted to make a contribution to the reconciliation between Jews and Christians.He died in London in 1957.
Under the directorship of Bryna Wasserman, the Yiddish Theatre of the Saidye Bronfman Centre Montreal gives a guest performance of the drama “God of Vengeance“, an early work of the author, at Theater Akzent in Vienna from 7 to 9 November 2006. The play was premiered on Broadway in New York in 1923.
On 11 and 12 November 2006, the Yiddish Theatre presents a contemporary musical with melodies and stories from the shtetl – “Those Were the Days“, also directed by Wasserman. ■
Austria pays homage to Rabbi Homolka
Rabbi Walter Homolka, 42, is rector of the Abraham Geiger College of Potsdam University and chairman of the “Leo Baeck Foundation“. He was awarded the Great Silver Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service to the Republic of Austria granted by Federal President Heinz Fischer at the Austrian embassy in Berlin on 2 November 2006. The honour was bestowed on him by Secretary of State for Art and Media Franz Morak on the 50th anniversary of the death of Leo Baeck. Homage was paid to Homolka for his efforts to enhance the cultural relations between Austria and Germany as well as his commitment to re-introducing rabbi training in the German-speaking area after the Shoah.
Morak explained that Homolka had invested about 2.5 million euro from his income from various activities into Austria’s cultural life, ranging from the “Art against Violence” campaign and the building of the first liberal Jewish synagogue in Vienna to the support of guest performances of Burgtheater in Germany.
Since 2002 Homolka, who had studied theology, philosophy and science of business management in Munich, London, Leipzig and Lampeter (Wales), has held the position of a rector of Germany’s first rabbi training programme after the Shoa. Before that he had been regional rabbi of Lower Saxony. ■
Albertina: old, young Picasso
Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) had an impact on the 20th century like no other artist. Vienna’s Albertina dedicates an exhibition to his late work until 7 January 2007, which has been curated by Werner Spies, former director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 200 works – paintings, prints and sculptures – of more than 60 collections show the great sensual furore of the “wild” old, but still young man. ■
Kunsthalle Wien: Americans
Kunsthalle Wien presents “masterpieces of American photography” from 1940 to the present in an exhibition titled “Americans” (ending on 4 February 2007). “Americans“ – named after the legendary photo book of Robert Frank – presents in 13 series of pictures by American photographers the upheavals, crises and transformations of the US society. Besides Frank, who gave the Beat Generation of the 1960s their image, the following artists are represented: Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Larry Clark, Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, Peter Hujar, Helen Levitt, Ryan McGinley, Gordon Parks, Rosalind Solomon, Ed Templeton and Burk Uzzle. ■
Robert Tarek Fischer: thrilling Austrian history
In general, the editors of this newsletter do not make publicity for their colleagues but we consciously make an exception for Robert-Tarek Fischer (born in Mödling near Vienna in 1965). Our colleague heading the group “Internet – Coordination and Editing” earned a Ph.D. for his thesis approved by professor Gerald Stourzh and is an excellent historian. Today two books were published by Böhlau. The first titled “Richard I. Löwenherz 1157-1199“ describes the fate of Richard the Lionheart who became a myth for his spectacular crusade against sultan Saladin and German captivation. Based on detailed empirical evidence, Fischer gives a thrilling description of the complex character and skilful diplomacy of Richard I., who became the most powerful ruler of the Occident. In the second book “Österreich im Nahen Osten“ Fischer investigates the great power politics of the Hapsburg Monarchy in the Arab Orient 1633-1918. The relations of Europe and the Middle East in modern age have been the focus of Fischer’s research since the 1990s, which is topical in view of the situation in the Middle East. The book is based on his doctoral thesis. ■
Sport as a key factor in inter-national development policy
In the presence of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit took place at the UN headquarters in New York from 29 to 31 October 2006. The aim of the event was to bring together young people from all members of the United Nations and to discuss how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Austrian Secretary of State for Sport Karl Schweitzer stressed the increasingly important role of sport in realising the development policy goals of the United Nations. “It must be an objective of the international community to ensure that every child in the world can participate in sports. Sport should not be a luxury available only to a minority but offer health, fun and peaceful play to all. It is important that a political consensus as broad as possible is reached at a European level regarding sports as a tool promoting development aid. Austria will continue to advocate that sport should be part and parcel of development programmes”, stressed Schweitzer. The Global Youth Leadership Summit in New York was the climax and conclusion of a series of regional youth congresses. During the Austrian EU Council Presidency, the Federal Chancellery hosted the regional EU-UN Youth Leadership Summit. ■
Austrians in favour of Olympic Winter Games in Salzburg
Based on a recent survey of the polling institute Gallup, about 87% of all Austrians and 61% of all inhabitants of the city of Salzburg are in favour of hosting the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Salzburg. The IOC members will select the host of the Olympic Winter Games 2014 in Guatemala on 4 July 2007. Other cities presenting their candidacies are Sotchi (Russia) and Pyeongchang (South Korea). “The Austrian federal government is known as the driving force behind many applications of Austria to host large-scale sports events. We have granted full support to the application of Salzburg, to which we also attached top priority”, stressed Secretary of State for Sport Schweitzer. Fedor Radmann, who is managing Salzburg’s application as a host of the Olympic Games in 2014, presented together with Heinz Jungwirth, Secretary-General of ÖOC (Austrian Olympic Committee), the advantages of Austria’s application at the World Forum for Sport, Education and Culture in Beijing some days ago. Among the 700 experts attending the event, 36 were IOC members, representatives of national Olympic committees and international associations of sports disciplines as well as UNESCO members. ■
“Sport“ postulates wishes for the future to a new government
In a position paper the Austrian Federal Sports Organisation (BSO) presented food for thought for the “sport“ coalition negotiating team. “The political players have the opportunity of realising that sport is a multi-dimensional social resource”, said BSO President Franz Löschnak after a meeting of the BSO governing body. However, Löschnak also stated explicitly that the outgoing government had “really provided a solid foundation for sport”. One of the most pressing needs was to raise the statutory “security network”, i.e. the guaranteed minimum level of sport subsidies, of currently 40 million euro to between 50 and 55 million euro. It was crucial to increase this minimum “security”, in particular in view of the current discussion about the abolishment of the gambling monopoly in the EU. Secretary of State for Sport Schweitzer stated that a continuing good and homogeneous cooperation of the incoming federal government with sports organisations would provide stimulus to the positive development of sport in the future. “Many jointly launched projects should be continued and the importance of sport as a service provider in the health system should be strengthened within a greater network”. ■