Culture, Media, Science
Minister of Justice Berger: package to combat violence against children
Following numerous cases of child maltreatment that became public recently, Minister of Justice Maria Berger presented a set of measures to combat violence against children. It provides for more effective criminal prosecution as well as amendments to the criminal and civil law. Among the measures envisaged is that “all professions working with children will be bound by a uniform, comprehensive and strict duty to report” any suspicion of violence against children. While currently only security authorities have to report suspected cases, youth agencies, schools, nurseries, sports clubs and the health administration will be subject to a reporting obligation in the future.
Moreover, different legal frameworks are in place for the individual professional groups. Members of the medical profession, for example, have to observe the Medical Profession Act. In cases of child maltreatment involving close family members, they are not subject to a legal reporting requirement if it seems preferable to involve only the youth agencies in the interest of the victim. The purpose of this rule was to avoid that parents or close relatives would be afraid of taking injured children to hospital.
The Minister of Justice explained the planned measures in detail at a press conference on 12 December 2007. Besides new rules harmoni-sing and strengthening the reporting duty for incidents of violence against children, public prosecutors receiving special training are to act as an interface and protect children from further violence in the “immediate social environment”. However, the exact details of the new reporting requirement have not yet been laid down. The question of the appropriate time of reporting a case to the police was of fundamental importance. “The number-one priority must be to guarantee the safety of the victim”, stressed Berger. The criminal law provisions on torturing or neglecting children or helpless persons (§92 Austrian Penal Code) have to be further developed.
Improvements for victims are envisaged also in criminal proceedings and civil suits at law. The courts are to be allowed to postpone the hearing and to conduct first the “necessary in-vestigations”, if this helps to protect the victim. Berger pointed out that the criminal justice system had undergone a fundamental transformation in the past years by recognising and involving victims and their rights. However, one should not only focus on the cases that have become public in the recent past but above all bear in mind the high number of unknown victims about whose fate the police and courts will never be informed, stressed the Minister. ■
Human Rights: Women’s Minister Bures against domestic violence
On the International Human Rights Day (10 December 2007), Minister for Women’s Affairs Doris Bures denounced domestic violence as one of the most frequent human rights violations. Every fifth woman became a victim of domestic violence, the police had to intervene up to 20 times a day due to violence in the family. The women’s helpline against male violence registered an average of 55 calls per day. In 2006 3,143 women and children had taken refuge in Austria’s 25 autonomous shelters for battered women and women emergency flats. “Violence in the home is not an isolated phenomenon“, said Bures, who appealed to the entire society “to look at it more closely instead of ignoring it”. Domestic violence against women was also a “type of psychological violence against children”, emphasised the Minister. To witness violence against their mothers caused grave harm to the children. In this context, Bures referred to the present campaign “In love, engaged, battered“, that aims at raising the awareness of unlawfulness of violence and make the women’s helpline against male violence – 0800/222 555 – known to a wider public. The autonomous shelters for battered women operate the helpline, which is a first point of contact for victims of violence. ■
Climate Fund subsidises projects with 45 million euros
The newly founded Austrian Climate Protection and Energy Fund has so far approved 45 million euros for 150 projects. The total funding available for 2007 is 50 million euros and the funds up 2010 total 500 million euros. About one third of the money goes to research, market penetration and transport. ■
Reform Treaty: Chancellor Gusenbauer attends signing in Lisbon
The European heads of state and government signed the EU Reform Treaty (“Treaty of Lisbon”) in a formal ceremony in Lisbon on 13 December 2007. This marks the end of a difficult restructuring process of the European Union after the failed EU Constitution (2005) and the adoption of the respective reforms. On behalf of Austria the treaty was signed by Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. Now the 27 EU Member States have to ratify the treaty. In Austria – as in most Member States – this is done by Parliament; a referendum on this document is to be held only in Ireland. The Treaty of Lisbon will enter into force in January 2009.
Federal Chancellor Gusenbauer described the treaty as an “important step” for Austria. “We must state very clearly: the European approach has been worthwhile for Austria”, said Gusenbauer. The country has profited from EU membership and was the “main beneficiary of enlargement”. The treaty itself constituted a “further development of the European Union“ analogously to the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice, which were all ratified by the Austrian Parliament. This way of ratification therefore “continued to be the right one” as the basic decision about Austria’s EU membership had been taken by a large majority in a referendum, stressed Gusenbauer.
According to the new treaty, there will be an EU Council President appointed for two and a half years, a “High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy” as well as a smaller European Commission. The European Parliament will have a greater say in decision-making processes. With effect 2014, majority decisions will require the votes of at least 55% of the Member States representing 65% of the EU population. It will become easier for national parliaments to reject legislative proposals by the European Commission. All Member States will retain their sovereign rights to decide on water resources or close military alliances.
The Kosovo issues was one of the items on the agenda at the informal summit of the EU heads of state and government held in Brussels one day after the solemn signing of the Treaty. The EU also agreed on a so-called “rule of law mission”, with about 1,800 participants, to establish a judicial and administrative system in Kosovo. In this context, Gusenbauer referred to Austria’s “responsible role” and the envisaged participation in the mission. The EU would pursue an approach “as unified as possible” regarding the possible recognition of an independent Kosovo, with Austria being among the pioneers, as the Chancellor indicated. ■
EU-Africa summit: Austria’s candidacy for UN Security Council
At the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon on 8 December 2008 Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Minister of the Exterior Ursula Plassnik drummed up support for Austria’s candidacy as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council in the period 2009/10. the Federal Chancellor was pleased about the feedback: “We could feel quite a lot of sympathy.“ The meeting agenda included bilateral talks with representatives of numerous African countries. Gusenbauer justified the planned participation of the Austrian Federal Army in the EU mission in Chad by highlighting the traditional humanitarian commitment of Austria and the European Union. The goal was to help ensure the survival of hundreds of thousands of people. ■
Most significant enlargement of Schengen zone
On 21 December 2008 controls at the borders of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta will be abolished. Minister of the Interior Günther Platter explained that the EU’s new external borders were “well protected”. Furthermore, stringent security measures, controls in the areas close to the borders and police cooperation agreements with Austria’s neighbouring states would ensure security also in the future. The Austrian Federal Army’s so-called “assistance mission” would be extended.
In the daily “Die Presse“ (14 December 2007) Platter stressed the opportunities and advantages of the enlargement of the Schengen zone, e.g. no queues at border checkpoints and better opportunities for the domestic economy. ■
OECD economic forecast: Austria remains stable
The Austrian National Bank (OeNB) expects a GDP growth of 3.3 percent for this year, which means that the economic boom has reached its peak in 2007. This result recently presented by the OeNB in its December forecast exceeds the rate the OeNB had projected in June (3,2 percent). However, the Austrian National Bank had to adjust its growth forecasts for 2008 and 2009 to lower levels, and it also made a significantly upward revision of the estimated inflation rate for the entire year 2007, from originally 1.7 percent to 2.1 percent. This is due to increased prices for food, energy, water and housing as well as transport, OeNB Director Josef Christl explained to journalists on 11 December 2007. In 2008 the rate will probably surge to 2.4 percent but is expected to drop below the 2 percen-threshold in 2009.
Real growth would remain stable by international comparison. For 2008 a plus of 2.5 percent (June forecast: 2.7 percent) is expected, while a rate of 2.3 percent is likely in 2009.
The growth prospects were overshadowed by the problems on the US real estate market and the consequential turbulences in the international financial markets, in particular the money market, informed Christl. In the past exports had been the driving force behind Austria’s economic growth, private consumption remained problematic.
Despite the economic slowdown, the labour market showed a favourable development. For 2008 the OeNB predicts an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent (Eurostat definition), after 4.3 percent in 2007 and 4.7 percent in 2006. For the year 2009 a minor increase to 4.3 percent is expected. This rate was close to full employment, said OeNB Director Christl.
The economic ratios presented by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were also stable, but had been revised slightly downward. According to the preliminary estimate a sound GDP growth of 2.5 percent (or 2.6 percent will be registered in 2008 and 2009. ■
Unemployment continues to drop
In November unemployment declined in Austria for the 21st time in a row. At the end of the month 223,610 jobseekers were registered, this is 3.5 percent less than in November of the previous year. At the same time the number of registered vacancies rose by 2.7 percent to 33,280. ■
Chancellor Gusenbauer: strengthen positive economic development
On the occasion of the official appointment of the new members of the Economic Panel (“Wirtschaftskurie”) set up within the Austrian Statistical Office (“Statistik Austria“) on 12 December 2007, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer explained that Austria’s entrepreneurs made a decisive contribution to a strong national economy.
The Austrian economy was growing much faster than the remaining euro-zone, this year the strongest decrease in 25 years was registered in the number of unemployed persons. “Today Austria ranks fourth in an EU comparison of GDP per capita, and there are early signs of a further improvement of our position”, said Gusenbauer. This was a joint success of the domestic economic sector and politics. In the future the main goal would be to ensure that Austria developed from a “technology consumer” to a “technology provider”. This “qualitative leap“ posed a great challenge. The federal government recently held an “innovation summit” to promote research and development. “This is our only chance to come up against international competition on a long-term basis”, said the Federal Chancellor. ■
Tax bonus for eco-cars
The reform of the Standard Consumption Tax (NoVA), a tax based on the petrol consumption levied on buying a car) passed the Council of Ministers on 5 December 2007. In the frame-work of greening efforts, a bonus-malus system for new cars will be introduced in July 2008, which is to provide an incentive to buy more “climate-friendly” cars.
Cars with CO2 emissions of more than 180 grams per kilometre pay a malus of 25 euros for each gram exceeding this threshold, while a bonus of 300 euros is granted for cars with CO2 emissions below 120 grams. With effect 1 January 2010, the malus of 25 euros will be payable in respect of vehicles with emissions of more than 160 grams per kilometre. ■
Vienna: posthumous award to Hrant Dink at the Federal Chancellery
On the Human Rights Day Hrant Dink’s widow Rakel received two important awards at the Federal Chancellery on behalf of her late husband. The PaN (Partner of All Nations) Anniversary Prize, which is offered by the Federation of Austro-Foreign Societies, and the Prize of the International Press Institute, which pays tribute to Hrant Dink as the “World Press Freedom Hero 2007“.
The Turkish-Armenian journalist, editor-in-chief of the bilingual daily “Agos“ was assassinated in the open street in front of his office in Istanbul in January 2007. In his works, essays and commentaries he often wrote about Armenian history, about the officially denied displacement and killings of more than one million Armenians living in Turkey during World War I. He had been taken to court numerous times before he was killed by nationalists.
Heidrun Silhavy, Secretary of State for Regional Policy and Administrative Reform, presented the prize to Rakel Dink on behalf of Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. In her statement she stressed the necessity of improving minority protection in Turkey. A paragraph in the Penal Code, based on which critics could face criminal prosecution for “denigrating Turkishness“, was unworthy of a civilised country. Of course one also had to state that Turkey is “a country in which democratic elections are held and where the influence of the military seems to dwindle“. In the context of Ankara’s ambitions to join the EU, Silhavy stated that the attitude of the majority in Parliament to the ethnic and religious minorities would be used as a “yardstick” against which to measure Turkey. The denial of the Armenian genocide, a symbol of unsolved structural human rights and minority problems, was one of the main obstacles for Turkey’s approximation to Europe. “By awarding the prizes to Rakel Dink on the Day of Human Rights, I hope to make a contribution to a more humane future in the native country of Rakel and Hrant Dink”, said the Secretary of State.
Rakel Dink thanked for the “respect paid which was comforting and encouraging“. The “Hrant Dink Foundation“ would do its best to “keep his ideals alive“. Arat Dink, one of the sons of the couple and also editor of “Agos“, is staying abroad with relatives after he had been convicted in accordance with the controversial provision in the Turkish Penal Code. But her son would return to Turkey, Rakel Dink informed the Austrian Press Agency (APA).
At the ceremony thanks were also expressed to the PaN Federation, in particular its President Claus Walter, who had pled for awarding the PaN Anniversary Prize to Hrant Dink and his cause. 50 representatives of foreign societies attended the moving ceremony.
PaN is under the aegis of Federal President Heinz Fischer and comprises 112 friendship societies to date. The first of these societies, the Austrian-Soviet Society, had been established in June 1945. Their mission is to promote a “dialogue of religions and cultures“, said Silhavy. Vienna’s Former Mayor Sepp Rieder, President of the Austro-Israeli Society, underlined the commitment of the members of PaN to the UN Human Rights Charter whose importance was increasing “with the cooling down of diplomatic good weather conditions”. ■
Vienna: Peter Handke received by Federal President Heinz Fischer
Peter Handke is not only the most important Austrian writer of the present but also an outstanding translator, film director and script-writer. His view of the conflict in Former Yugoslavia had sparked controversy.
Handke celebrated his 65th birthday on 6 December 2007. Federal President Heinz Fischer took advantage of the occasion to invite the author, which he personally holds in high esteem, to a breakfast to the presidential office at Vienna’s Hofburg on 10 December 2007. The Austrian living on the outskirts of Paris, in Chaville, travelled to Vienna probably also for other reasons. With the support of the Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture, the Austrian National Library (ÖNB) had recently acquired Handke’s “Nachlass zu Lebzeiten“ (“Posthumous estate of a living writer”), hand-written manuscripts of works, notes, collection of background material of the past two decades, e.g. for his novel “Mein Jahr in der Niemandsbucht“ (“My Year in the No-Man’s-Bay”).
Homage was paid to Handke also at Burgtheater and Akademietheater in Vienna.
The play “Die Spuren der Verirrten“ was performed at Akademietheater and the last performance of “Untertagsblues“ (“Underground Blues”) was also given recently; at Kasino Kirsten Dene and Markus Meyer read from “Wunschloses Unglück“ (“A Sorrow Beyond Dreams”). The band “Kante“, which has contributed music to Handke’s plays on several occasions, gave a concert after the reading.
Film Archives Austria dedicate a retrospective to Peter Handke, Wim Wenders and Erika Pluhar, ending on 7 January 2007.
At Radio-Kulturhaus of the Austrian Broad-casting Station (ORF) in Vienna a book was presented containing talks between Handke and Michael Kerbler.
Several books of the author, who obviously writes non-stop, are published by the Frankfurt-based Suhrkamp Verlag, e.g. “Die Morawische Nacht“ (“Samara”). This novel is based on “The Thousand Nights and One Night”, in which “people on the banks of a river tell stories of what was and what will be”, said the author. Other new works are “Meine Ortstafeln – Meine Zeittafeln“, collected political and social statements, as well as “Leben ohne Poesie“, poems of four decades. ■
Awards for Austrian educational and science films
At the four-day European Educational and Science Film Festival held in Vienna four films won prizes. The main prize “Best Science Film” went to Lars Becker-Larsen from Denmark for “The Copenhagen Interpretation“, which describes the philosophical controversy caused by Niels Bohr’s theory. In very simplified words, the Danish researcher claims: “We can see the world only when we measure it. The film is underpinned by unique material from archives and interviews with leading physicists, e.g. experimental physicist Anton Zeilinger from Vienna. The jury selected an analysis of the interrelations between psychoanalysis and cinema as ”Best Science Subject”. In her film “Licht in dunklen Räumen. Psychoanalysis and Cinema“ Julia Riedhammer from Berlin shows footage dating back to the early 20th century, in which dreams were visualised.
Two Austrian films also enthused the jury. Clara Lehnfeld won the award in the category “Best Independent Film“. She explains the behaviour of quanta in her film “Der Beobachter und seine Realität“. “Die Reise zur Wiege Europas“ by Petrus van der Let won recognition as the “Best Educational Film“. His filmic expedition to the myths of Homer reveal an exciting chapter in the Austrian archaeology history.
16 films out of more than 40 entries from all over Europe had been nominated for the festival competition. In 2008 the Festival will again take place in the last week of November. ■
Vienna University: chair for microbiologist Renée Schroeder
Viennese microbiologist Renée Schroeder finally broke through the “glass ceiling” that prevents women from advancing in their academic careers and that she had criticised repeatedly. She was appointed to a full professorship of RNA biochemistry at the Centre of Molecular Biology of the University of Vienna. Schroeder has been an assistant professor since 1995 and received a temporary contract as a professor in 2006.
Renee Schroeder (born in Brazil in 1953) was awarded the Wittgenstein Prize in 2003. In 2005 she became Head of the Department of Biochemistry of the Max F. Perutz Laboratory of Vienna University and Vice-President of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
Her research activities focus on RNA, a molecule very similar to DNA, a substance that carries genetic information (but RNA is single stranded, while DNA is double stranded). In the cell RNA is responsible for translating genetic information into proteins.
Moreover, a second woman succeeded in breaking through the “glass ceiling” at the University of Vienna in early December. Law expert Brigitta Jud (born in Graz in 1972) was appointed to a professorship in civil law at the Faculty of Law. ■
Gloomy Ennio Morricone and his orchestra triumphed in Vienna
He would have deserved the Honorary Award for his lifetime achievements a long time ago. In February 2007 79-year-old composer Ennio Morricone finally got it. He composed more than 500 soundtracks, which lend a very special flair to the eminent works by film directors such as Sergio Leone, Pier Paolo Pasolini or Bernardo Bertolucci.
At Vienna’s Stadthalle the elegant maestro from Rome conducted a potpourri of his great works. His orchestra – Roma Sinfonietta – consisted of 120 musicians. Besides large string and wing sections, there were two harps, a marimba, a piano, a keyboard, a battery as well as electric and bass guitars on the stage, which were supported by a choir of 80 singers in some pieces. Massive crescendos were followed by swinging jazz elements, e.g. in the score for “Once Upon a Time in America“. There was hardly any other contemporary composer risking a similar style in Absolute Music since Late Romanticism. In an interview with the Viennese culture magazine “Falter“ Morricone said: “If I conducted the works of other composers, Johann Strauß would certainly be among them. But also Schönberg, Webern and Alban Berg“.
For his funeral the gloomy man would select the finale of his score for Roland Joffé’s “Mission“ (with Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons).
The 7,000 persons listening to Morricone’s music at his first and only concert in Vienna were wildly enthusiastic – and the maestro seemed to smile. ■
Böll Prize to Christoph Ransmayr
Author Christoph Ransmayr, 53, born in Wels (Upper Austria), was awarded the Heinrich Böll Prize in Cologne. The jury praised his “incomparable esthetical awareness of form which cannot be ascribed to any literary trend and still captivates a wide readership“. In his thank-you statement Ransmayr took advantage of the occasion to ask questions – “in the very tradition of Heinrich Böll” – about the justification of the Iraq war and the motives of US President George W. Bush. The laudatory speech was held by Sigrid Löffler. The Austrian who now lives in West Cork (Ireland) is famed as one of the greatest writers of his generation. His spectacular first novel “The Terrors of Ice and Darkness“ (1984) described the Austrian-Hungarian polar expedition led by Payer and Weyprecht. The Ovid novel “The Last Word“ (1988) made him one of the “leading authors of postmodernism” according to the jury awarding him the Bertolt Brecht Prize. In his novel “Der fliegende Berg“ (2006), he takes the reader not only to Ireland, his adopted country, but also to Tibet. ■
Vienna: COOP HIMMELB(L)AU at MAK
The exhibition “COOP HIMMELB(L)AU. Beyond the Blue“ was opened at the Vienna Museum for Applied Arts (MAK) in the presence of more than 2,300 visitors, notably Federal President Heinz Fischer and his wife Margit. To date this has been the most comprehensive presentation of the globally active team of architects at a museum. It is another highlight in the series of shows the MAK dedicated to architects like Zaha Hadid and Peter Eisenman. On an enormous platform about 306 architectural models for about 115 exemplary international projects are displayed. The presentation gives the impression of a grown townscape. The exhibition turns the spotlight on new projects such as the recently completed BMW Welt, Munich (2001-2007), the Musée des Confluences, Lyon (2001-2010), and the European Central Bank, Frankfurt/Main (2003-2011). ■
Important award to Peter Rosei
Writer Peter Rosei, 61, was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art. The presentation speech was held by Thomas Rothschild. Minister of Culture Clau¬dia Schmied emphasised that the award was “not an end but should be understood as a new highlight, which was expressed in the appreciation of the public sector“. With 25 novels, Rosei is one of the most important authors of the present. The film version of “Who was Edgar Allen?“ was directed by Michael Haneke. “Wien Metropolis“ (2005) is regarded as his most important work. ■
Austrian World Music Award 2007
The founders of the trio “Troica“ – Romanian singer Claudia Cervenca, who lives in Vienna, Viennese jazz percussionist Uli Soyka and contrabassist Karl Sayer were selected as the winners of the “Austrian World Music Prize 2007“ of the “Festival of Sounds“ by a jury composed of top representatives of the music industry. ■
European Championships with Markus Rogan & co: magical Austrian swimmers
The 11th European Short Course Swimming Championships ended with a new European record and five medals for Austria in Debrecen (Hungary). Winning five medals – one gold, three silver and one bronze – this were the second most successful European Short Course Swimming Championships after 2004 for the Austrian Swimming Federation (OSV). Austria’s medallists were Markus Rogan (gold – 200m backstroke, silver – 100m backstroke), Mirna Jukic (silver – 100m and 200m breaststroke) and Fabienne Nadarajah (bronze – 50m backstroke). The other OSV swimmers could also be very satisfied with their performance at the Championships. Domestic athletes reached the final competition thirteen times and set 15 national records, e.g. Markus Rogan’s European record in 200m backstroke. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Secretary of State for Sports Reinhold Lopatka congratulated the swimmers on their individual triumphs and the Austrian Swimming Federation on its successful work, which was reflected in the outstanding performance of the entire team. ■
New world record of Thomas Morgenstern at World Cup
Double Olympic champion Thomas Morgenstern achieved a spectacular result in the Ski Jumping World Cup. Winning two events on the normal hill in Villach, he set a new world record. He became the first ski jumper in history to win the first five World Cup events of the season in a row. In the past 28 World Cup seasons no other athlete has ever won the first five consecutive events. Five wins in a row had been achieved by Andreas Goldberger, Adam Malysz and Sven Hannawald. With six wins in a row, Finland’s Janne Ahonen and Matti Hautamäki share the absolute record since the 2004/05 season. ■
Funds for the anti-doping combat will double in 2008
The latest reports on a new Austrian doping case highlight the necessity of doubling the funds for the combat against doping. The establishment of Austria’s independent doping control body (NADA) is one of the top priorities in sport in the next year. The new National Anti-Doping Agency stands for more checks, information and prevention in the combat against doping. Efficient work is ensured by organising the agency as a non-profit limited liability company (Ges.m.b.H.), which is independent from the national associations and a management performing operational tasks. This organisation will be supported by a legal, medical and ethical committee. In total more than one million euros will be allocated to the anti-doping combat as from 2008 (previously 500,000 euros). With the new Anti-Doping Act and the new Anti-Doping Agency, the Austrian federal government intensifies the fight against doping in a credible and sustainable way. The aims of the new Anti-Doping Act are more prevention, the optimisation of procedures and the strengthening of the Anti-Doping Agency. Austria ratified the UNESCO’s International Convention Against Doping in Sport and thus the World-Anti-Doping Code issued by WADA in June 2007. ■
Fans are at the heart of EURO
As the football fans are at the heart of UEFA EURO 2008 the Federal Chancellery /Secretariat of State for Sport attaches great importance to professional fan support in its preparations. The “FairPlay“ project of the Vienna-based Institute for Development and Cooperation (vidc), which coordinates the “fan embassies” during EURO 2008, has played a pioneering role in the combat against racism and in professional fan support for many years. FairPlay-vidc receives from UEFA a total of 1.1 million Swiss francs for its work with the fans and for anti-racism projects in Austria and Switzerland during EURO. The Federal Chancellery subsidises “FairPlay“ in Austria with an additional 300,000 euros. ■