Culture, Media, Science
Federal Chancellor Gusenbauer invited to “Dialogue of Religions”
Following an invitation by Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, the top representatives of most Churches and religious communities recognised in Austria gathered for the first time for a “Dialogue of Religions” at the Federal Chancellery on 18 September 2007.
All attendees of the event pled for a peaceful and harmonious co-existence. In view of the recent detentions of radical Islamists in Austria and a heated debate about the role of Islam, Federal Chancellor Gusenbauer called for respect, tolerance and critical dialogue.
According to the Chancellor, the “roots of hatred and intolerance” were not only to be found in “misinterpretations of the different religious teachings”. But clearly there were “also social reasons that obstructed integration and peaceful co-existence”, said Alfred Gusenbauer. Tolerance and respect were indispensable but one should not shut one’s eyes to manifest problems. “The best way to combat aggression and violence among members of different religions and cultures is to arrive at a better understanding, founded on respect for and tolerance towards the other”, underlined the Chancellor.
President of the Islamic Religious Community Anas Schakfeh reiterated that his religious community generally rejected terrorism, violence and menaces to society. The Islamic Religious Community in Austria loyally supported the democratic legal system of the Republic and would do its best to contribute to a return to normality, assured Shakfeh.
“We have to learn to live together in this one space, in this on world”, stressed Vienna’s Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.
The invitation to the Federal Chancellery had been extended to hold a so-called “Iftar dinner“, the joint evening meal of the Muslims for breaking the daily fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.
Among the guests of honour were Protestant Bishop Herwig Sturm, the President of the Jewish Religious Community, Ariel Muzikant, as well as bishops and presidents of the Christian-Orthodox Church and all other Churches and religious communities recognised in Austria. ■
Council of Ministers gave the green light to integration platform
After the Council of Ministers on 19 September 2007, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer informed about the planned establishment of a “platform for more integration and security in Austria“. By setting up this platform, an important project of the government agreement would be implemented. “Our aims are peaceful co-existence in Austria and better opportunities for all groups of society”, stated Gusenbauer. He announced that he and Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer would present more details at the opening conference on 15 October 2007.
As the advisory body responsible for integration policy, the platform (chaired by Minister of the Interior Günther Platter) will be in permanent session and report to the government at six-month intervals. Gusenbauer described this initiative also as a “platform of the practitioners of integration work“. Besides the ministries, also the Länder, cities, communities, social partners, religious communities and NGOs had been invited to cooperate. In the debate itself it was important to distinguish between integration, security and terrorist crimes, said Gusenbauer.
The amendment to the Employment of Foreigners Act was adopted in the Council of Ministers on 19 September 2007. It lays down improved employment conditions for researchers and their families. Under the new Act, the exemptions in place for researchers will also become applicable to the extramural sector and companies. ■
ECJ prohibits Upper Austrian ban on genetically engineered crops
On 13 September 2007, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) lifted the prohibition of the growing of genetically engineered crops in Upper Austria. After the judgment was announced, disappointment was expressed but at the same time the responsible officers at federal and regional level stressed emphatically that they would continue the anti-genetic-engineering policy and defend existing import bans.
To prevent the growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a so-called “preventive law” with strict protective clauses has been in force in Upper Austria since July 2006. ■
Dalai Lama received by Federal Chancellor Gusenbauer
On 20 September 2007, Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer received the Dalai Lama. The Austrian head of government clearly rejected the Chinese government’s criticism of this meeting. “One thing has to be clear: Vienna and Austria are places of dialogue“, stressed Gusenbauer in the 9 o’ clock news of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) after his morning meeting with the Dalai Lama. A spokesman of Gusen-bauer stressed that the Chancellor had received the Dalai Lama as a “religious leader and very important spiritual personality“ but not as a “Tibetan politician“. The role of the Dalai Lama was crucial in the inter-religious dialogue, which was considered very important especially in view of the current integration debate in Austria.
“The attitude of the Chinese government is known“, said the head of government. The Austrian-Chinese relations were, however, “very good”. There was an intensive political and economic cooperation and this would not change. Referring to the meeting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel with the Dalai Lama (23 September 2007), Gusenbauer stressed the “common attitude” of Berlin and Vienna.
Gusenbauer’s companion Eva Steiner also participated in the meeting in the Chancellery. The Dalai Lama, who had won the Peace Nobel Prize, continued this trip to the Czech Republic and Germany. In Austria the Dalai Lama had participated in the “Waldzell Meeting“ at Melk Abbey (Lower Austria), where he discussed the search for a purpose in life and spirituality with outstanding personalities in the field of economy, culture, research and of various religious communities. The programme of the Dalai Lama’s private visit to Austria also included a visit to the SOS Children’s Village in Hinterbrühl (Lower Austria) celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. ■
Chancellor Gusenbauer in the USA
“Geographically Austria is a small country but it is a super power in terms of renewable energies“ – with this statement Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer announced his strategy for the UN climate summit on 24 September 2007 in New York on 21 September 2007. Together with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, he will head one of four working groups on mitigating the effects of climate change. One day later the UN General Assembly with all 192 member states will be held.
Climate protection was a subject far too important to be tackled with individual approaches to solutions. “We have to achieve an international, global mechanism and this can be done only under the lead of the United Nations”, Gusenbauer explained to representatives of the Austrian media.
“Due to our exemplary position in the field of future-oriented energy resources, Austria qualified to co-chair this important climate summit“ stated the Federal Chancellor, placing great hopes on this item on the agenda of this UN General Assembly. A successor agreement had to be found for the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012 to ensure that the next international climate conference in Bali in December will become a success. “We want and have to send out a strong signal in New York“, said Gusenbauer after his preparatory talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. A major goal was to get Kyoto critics such as the USA on board. More than 70 heads of state and government participate in the climate deliberations at the United Nations headquarters, among them Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria. In a closed-door meeting Gusenbauer agreed with Schwarzenegger on intensive cooperation regarding environmental issues and climate protection. Bilateral meetings with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbajev and Serbian President Boris Tadic and others have been planned. At the Austrian Cultural Forum Gusenbauer will meet with British-Indian author Salman Rushdie. Moreover, talks will be held with financial investor George Soros and Economic Nobel Prize Winner Joseph E. Stiglitz.
Other items on the agenda of the UN General Assembly are the Middle East conflict and the crisis region Dafur in Sudan. In the preliminaries Gusenbauer stated once more that Syria and the Lebanon should be involved in the Middle East peace process. With regard to Sudan, the Chancellor called for a UN mission. ■
Government adopted “greening” of road tolls for lorries as from 2010
The federal government passed a resolution on “greening” the road toll system for lorries in the Council of Ministers on 17 September 2007. The new rules are to enter into force no later than in 2010. With effect on 1 January 2010, toll rates will be differentiated according to euro emission categories. The vehicles are grouped into euro categories based on their emission levels. The EU made the introduction of charging categories in 2010 a binding requirement.
In Austria the go-ahead has been given for restructuring the road charging system even before that. Different road tolls based on emission classes can be enacted by decree already in the next two years. Furthermore, it will become possible to establish charges varying according to the time of the day.
At present the tolls charged for using domestic motorways and speedways are categorised only based on vehicle size. Lorries with more than 3.5 tons and two axles pay 15.5 cents/km, vehicles with three axles 21.7 cents and those with four or more axles about 32.6 cents. In Germany the charging system based on emission categories has already been introduced. ■
Minister Bartenstein in Central Asia
On 17 September 2007 Minister for Economics Martin Bartenstein held official talks with the government of Kazakhstan in Astana. He was accompanied by Vice-President of the Economic Chamber Austria (WKÖ) Martin Schenz and a large trade delegation. The new Austrian Airlines flight service between Vienna and Astana was opened ceremoniously.
Kazakhstan was a country with an “enormous economic and tourist potential”, stated Bartenstein, who discussed alternatives to the Russian pipeline monopoly for energy supplies to the West with Minister for Energy Sauat Mynbajev and others in Kazakhstan’s capital. Bartenstein explained that the current trade volume between Austria and Kazakhstan amounted to about 800 million euros, corresponding to the exchange of commodities with Denmark. As it was not balanced, measures to boost exports had to be taken: Austria exports goods worth only about 200 million euros to Kazakhstan. The trade relations consisted mainly in petrol supplies from Kazakhstan, which has been Austria’s most important petrol supplier since last year. The Austrian petrol group OMV operates in Kazakhstan through its Romanian subsidiary Petrom. Other red-white-red companies engaging in Kasachstan are for example the Austrian medical technology group Vamed, Siemens subsidiary VAI, Schrack Seconet or Styrian sausage producer Schirnhofer.
Other destinations of the official visit to Central Asia were Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. ■
Raiffeisen International launches mega-issue at Stock Exchange
The listed Raiffeisen International (RI), the holding company for Eastern European banks of Raiffeisen Zentralbank (RZB), decided to increase its capital by 1.22 billion euros on 17 September 2007. This is the fifth largest capital increase at Vienna Stock Exchange and in Austria’s economic history. About 11.9 million new shares are to be issued at a maximum price per share of 120 euros. The final price is to be fixed after the end of the subscription period, probably on 3 October 2007. The revenue of the issue will be used to continue the group’s expansion in Central and Eastern Europe and to make acquisitions in Russia and Kazakhstan. ■
OMV among the world’s top 40
In a recent ranking of the world’s 250 top-performing energy companies Austria’s largest energy group OMS moved up from rank 40 to rank 37. The international industry information service Platts based its rating on a combination of factors such as assets, sales, profits and return on investment. Exxon Mobil group (Texas) is still the globally best performing energy player, followed by British BP und Shell. ■
BA-CA with a new name and logo
In 2008 Bank Austria Creditanstalt (BA-CA), Austria’s largest bank, will change its name and logo. It will be called only “Bank Austria“ and its logo will be changed from the red wave to a red dot with the number one in white. The aim of these measures is to pave the way for launching the brand of the Italian parent UniCredit. ■
Mourning the death of Austria’s jazz legend Joe Zawinul
Austrian jazz world star Zawinul died from cancer in a hospital in Vienna at the age of 75 on 11 September 2007. Politicians, friends and colleagues were deeply affected by the death of the brilliant keyboarder. They paid tribute to the great human qualities and impressing oeuvre of this multi-talented and exceptional artist. Their unanimous reaction was that with Zawinul the only European musician died who had helped shape jazz, then the domain of predominantly black artists.
With international hits such as “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy“, probably the greatest soul-jazz hit of all times, and “Birdland“, for which he won several Grammy awards, the musician born in Vienna’s third district in 1932 and later American became an international jazz eminence. With congenial partners like the epoch-making jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis, Zawinul revolutionised the genre: The Davis album titled after the Zawinul composition “In A Silent Way“ marked a milestone: electric jazz, nowadays referred to as “fusion jazz” combined jazz and rock into a new style, with electronic instruments, loose song concepts and dominating improvisation sequences.
In 1970 Zawinul founded the band Weather Report, making it one of the most important jazz-rock formations – with the suport of bassist Jaco Pastorius, percussionist Peter Erskine and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. After the breaking up of Weather Report, he founded the “Zawinul Syndicate“, a group formed by top musicians from around the world, in 1987.
With albums such as “I Sing The Body Electric“, “Heavy Weather“ or “Black Market“, Zawinul set new standards in the use of the keyboard. He was voted “best keyboarder” 28 times by the renowned jazz magazine Down Beat.
The Viennese always maintained close links with Austria despite living for almost five decades in the USA. At the Hilton Hotel in Vienna he opened a jazz club in 2004: “Joe Zawinul´s Birdland“. International jazz stars followed his invitation to perform. In the recent past, Zawinul spent more and more time in Austria, e.g. to promote the rare domestic jazz talents.
Throughout his life the inspired artist was committed to more understanding and tolerance as well as to people in need, among them children from New Orleans, who had become victims of the hurricane disaster. He was also “Ambassador of Goodwill“ of Austrian Development Cooperation. In 1998 Zawinul organised a concert to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Mauthausen concentration camp.
Representatives of the political sphere hailed the deceased as a musician of world calibre, great humanist and multi-cultural ambassador. Federal President Heinz Fischer stressed that Austria had “lost an ambassador of music appreciated and known all over the world”, Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer underlined that Zawinul had “opened for Austria the gate to a new world of music which at that time was still afflicted by many prejudices“.
The “Zawinul Syndicate“ and the “Absolute Ensemble“ will perform at Vienna’s Konzerthaus on 29 September 2007 to commemorate the unique jazz musician, magician of improvisation and humanistic cosmopolitan.
The funeral ceremony will take place at Vienna’s central cemetery on 25 September 2007. The urn will be placed in a tomb of honour at a later date in the presence of his closest family members. ■
Leopold Museum: Austrian Artists “Between the Wars“
Up to 28 January 2008 Leopold Museum presents the superb exhibition “Between the Wars”, showcasing 150 paintings, drawings, posters and sculptures by Austrian artists between 1918 and 1938. The aim of this show is to position the multidimensional Austrian art production after WWI in the international art scene and to demonstrate that Austrian artists created independent and outstanding works even after Schiele, Klimt and Kolo Moser.
The expressionists of the second generation integrated cubofuturistic tendencies into their paintings, magic realism is a poetic-surrealistic interpretation of the outside world. Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) and socio-critical workers’ art emerged in parallel to the domestic avant-garde, e.g. Friedrich Kielser and the Viennese Kinetists. Works by Anton Kolig, Rudolf Wacker, Herbert Boeckl or Erika Giovanna Klien are also on show. ■
Last show of Bawag Foundation: Romantic Conceptualism
BAWAG Foundation and Generali Foundation will be renamed “Foundation(s)Quartier“ on 1 January 2008. They will have their premises at Wiedner Hauptstraße, the previous address of Generali Foundation. The alliance between the two art foundations was formed to take advantage of personnel, infrastructure and financial synergies. As far as approaches to art, content and collection activities are concerned, the two contemporary art institutions are to continue to act autonomously, informed BAWAG chief Ewald Nowotny and Generali Österreich boss Luciano Cirina at the press conference staged on the occasion of the last BAWAG show at Tuchlauben in the city centre on 12 September 2007.
BAWAG Foundation’s last exhibition at the old address can be visited until 1 December 2007: “Romantic Conceptualism“ was curated by Jörg Heiser. Selected works of 23 artists highlight the key role of the reflection of the Romantic in Conceptualism.
In contemporary art very great interest is shown in the concepts and themes of Romanticism – despite or especially because the art of German Romanticism and 20th century concept art imply diametrically opposed approaches. Romanticism stands for longing and melancholy, for the ephemeral and fragmentary. Concept art is supposed to be “sober and dry because an emotional kick would prevent the onlooker from perceiving this art”, as US artist Sol LeWitt postulated in 1967. Hence, concept art emancipates itself from traditional concrete depiction, covers also action, animation, installation as well as performance. It operates strongly with the tools and structures of communication. Instructions, letters, postcards, films and photos, language and text are increasingly used as artistic material.
The works of art – from objects dating back to the early sixties to exclusive contemporary productions – reflect in a partly emphatic and partly critical-humorous way romantic motifs and methods. The exhibition shows works by stars of the art world such as Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono or Bas Jan Ader, Ross Birrell, Lygia Clark, Louise Lawler, Lawrence Weiner and many others. ■
Albertina presents the late work of Philip Guston: “Works on Paper“
Philip Guston is considered one of the most important and influential American artists of the 20th century. His stylistically highly diverse works range from Abstract Expressionism to figurative Realism. Thanks to his manifold forms of expression and versatility he won great acclaim also in Europe. The basis of his oeuvre is the drawing, which led him to various other artistic approaches.
A fascinating presentation is dedicated to this artist in the Hall of Pillars of Albertina (closing on 25 November 2007). In “Philip Guston: Works on Paper“ the artist’s late work is shown for the first time in Austria
Philip Guston was born in Montreal in Canada in 1913 as the seventh and last child of a Russian-Jewish family of emigrants. In 1919 the family moved to Los Angeles. The father was driven to suicide by the precarious financial situation. Guston himself found him hanging from a rope, first he caught only a glimpse of the dangling shoes. His trauma was expressed as a recurring motif in his later works, with countless drawings showing hanging people or rough shoes.
After the death of his father, Guston started a cartoon drawing course. At the age of 14 years he was admitted to the Los Angeles Manual Arts High School, where he met Jackson Pollock. In the wide spectrum between renaissance and comics Guston created a flexible style, shaped by diverse influences and forms of expression. In 1949 Guston moved to New York, where he had contact with Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. In 1980 Philip Guston died from a heart attack.
Guston created the 92 works on paper that are now displayed at Albertina with subtle brilliance. They reflect his search for purification and artistic reorientation. By drawing he overcame crises in painting.
The diversity of the exhibits shown at Albertina is also very impressive: a strawberry-red cherry heap; political statements on an azure background; books representing skyscrapers; frightening men wearing hoods, a recurring image in the work of Guston; or simply shaky lines trying to find a new beginning. ■
Vienna State Opera with “Figaro“ on great Asia tour
Vienna State Opera started its great tour through Asia in Shanghai on 17 September 2007. In the sold-out performance at the Oriental Concert Hall Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro“ received standing ovations. This superb opera buffa will be performed in five cities: besides Shanghai, in Seoul, Taipei, Kaohsiung and finally in Singapore (26 September 2007).
The soloists, choir and orchestra are conducted by Seiji Ozawa – this is their first trip to South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. Vienna State Opera had been invited to China already in 1997. The performances are semi-concertante, among the singers are Luca Pisaroni and Wolfgang Bankl (alternating as Figaro), Peter Weber and Markus Eiche (Conte Almaviva) as well as Ildiko Raimondi and Alexandra Reinprecht (Susanna).
In the Asian countries Mozart operas continue to be almost a prerequisite for inviting Vienna State Opera. “Mozart is still associated with Vienna and Vienna State Opera”, confirmed State Opera Director Ioan Holender. ■
KHM at Schönbrunn Palace: carriages of Princes von Thurn und Taxis for Vienna
The exhibition “Pomp and Gloria” staged by the Vienna Museum of Art History’s Carriage Museum at Schönbrunn Palace was opened with great pomp and ceremony on 18 September 2007. Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, who had given 17 carriages as a permanent loan to the Vienna-based collection, attended the event. “We feel ennobled“, she remarked humorously, as it was a great honour for Regensburg to be represented in Vienna. “To me the Vienna Museum of Art History is the most beautiful museum in the world“, said the Princess.
Besides the Portuguese carriage collection in Lisbon, “Wiener Wagenburg” is among the leading carriage collections (now 180 horse-drawn vehicles) both in Europe and worldwide. With the exhibits on permanent loan from the Princely House von Thurn und Taxis (closely related to the Hapsburgs) a precious jewel was added to the collection in Vienna. To accommodate them, the premises were re-structured. The carriages from Regensburg were placed in the front part of the museum. The noble collection ranges from two-horse-drawn carriages and travel carriages to luxurious gala coupés dating back to the mid-19th century.
The exquisite vehicles from the princely horse stables illustrate the fine artistic details, technical quality and high level convenience the carriages of the nobility then offered. According to the Museum of Art History, the highlight of the show (open until 28 February 2008) are the carriages built in 1858 for Princess Helene in Bavaria. Helene, the elder sister of Empress Elisabeth and first (rejected) bride of Emperor Francis Joseph, later married Hereditary Prince Maximilian von Thurn und Taxis.
Director of Wagenburg Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner emphasised the historical value as the carriages from Regensburg close an “important gap in the collection”. After all, several of them were produced in Vienna. ■
Brucknerfest Linz: from classical music to unconventional spectacles
The Bruckner Festival 2007 under the motto “Klassisch anders“ (Classical/different) was opened at Brucknerhaus in Linz on 16 September 2007 by President Heinz Fischer. The festive speech given by philosopher Konrad Liessmann focused on the role of art in the age of “event culture”. The programme includes classical music, unconventional music spectacles, organ concerts, a solo piano performance by Rudolf Buchbinder and a comedy show by the group “Yellow Hands“ from Bavaria. The special programme “Music of our time” is dedicated to composer Otto M. Zykan, who died last year. The festival ends on 30 September 2007.
The breathtaking opening of the festival with the “Classical Sound Cloud” was broadcast from the Great Hall of Brucknerhaus. Anton Bruckner’s Second Symphony was performed by Gewandhausorchester Leipzig led by Riccardo Chailly.
The festival programme offers performances of the Bayerische Staatsorchester led by Kent Nagano, the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln conducted by Semyon Bychkov and Wiener Kammerorchester with Heinrich Schiff. The Austrian Bruckner Orchestra conducted by Karen Kamensek will conclude the festival. ■
300,000 visitors expected on the “Day of Sport“
On 29 September 2007 the “Day of Sport” will be staged at Vienna’s Heldenplatz for the seventh time. All Austrians are invited to participate in this unique open air sports festival between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The ceremony in which the Republic of Austria – represented by Federal Chancellor and Minister for Sport Alfred Gusenbauer, Secretary of State for Sport Reinhold Lopatka and the President of the Austrian Federal Sports Organisation Franz Löschnak – pays tribute to the athletes will be the great highlight of the event. The entire Austrian sports elite will gather at Heldenplatz. The Day of Sport also provides an ideal opportunity to get to know practically all Austrian sports associations and numerous Austrian sports institutions. The motto is: “Join in“. About 300,000 people are expected to watch the presentations of the sports clubs or to participate in sports activities in more than 110 designated areas. This year the European Football Championship EURO 2008 will be given prominence at Ballhausplatz. Admission is free. ■
Beijing 2008: Chinese Sports Minister Liu Peng in Vienna
The XXIX. Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games will be held in the Chinese capital Beijing from 8 to 24 August 2008. 205 participating nations are a new record, with South Korea and North Korea negotiating about a joint team. The Austrian Olympic Committee (ÖOC) will participate in the Olympic Games with 60 to 80 athletes. ÖOC fixed 20 July 2008 as the qualification deadline. “We are well prepared for the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games in Beijing in 2008“, stressed Secretary of State for Sport Reinhold Lopatka at the joint press conference with Chinese Sports Minister Liu Peng in Vienna. Liu Peng’s visit strengthened the good relations in the field of sport between China and Austria. Concrete areas of cooperation between the competent sports officials in summer and winter sports were defined. Minister Liu Peng underlined the significance of the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the sports nation China and provided detailed information about the progress of the preparations. China was very pleased to host the biggest Olympic Games in history and would do its utmost to guarantee fair and secure Games. ■
Vienna will become the seat of the European Paralympic Committee in 2008
At the meeting of the European Paralympic Committee (EPC) Vienna was selected to become the seat of the EPC in 2008. This decision strengthens Austria’s position in international sport and recognises Vienna as an optimally suited location for the headquarters of international organisations. Applications to host international large-scale sports events show every year how important international contacts are. At the EPC meeting on Crete Austria outshone Turkey, Italy and Switzerland. ■
EURO 2008 – “Ambassadors of Passion“
The worldwide attention Austria enjoys thanks to EURO 2008 is not only of great relevance for Austria’s foreign policy but is also invaluable to promote the country as a tourist destination. At the annual ambassadors’ conference, Secretary of State for Sport Reinhold Lopatka and the government’s EURO 2008 coordinator, Heinz Palme, informed a total of about 100 heads of foreign representations of the latest development and appointed the diplomats present “Ambassadors of Passion”. They now beat the advertising drum for the European Football Championship around the world. With 81 embassies, six permanent representations at international organisations, two foreign representations of ambassies and 15 consulates, Austria has more than 100 EURO 2008 ambassadors in 78 countries. ■