Culture, Media, Science
Chancellor Schüssel presents new members of government
In a special session of the Nationalrat (Lower House of Parliament) on 28 June 2004, Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel presented two new members of the government belonging to the Freedom Party (FPÖ): Minister of Justice Karin Miklautsch (40), previously head of the department for water law at the Office of the Provincial Government of Carinthia, and Secretary of State for Infrastructure Eduard Mainoni (46), previously member of Nationalrat. The Federal Chancellor wished his new colleagues “strength, success and good luck“.
On this occasion, Schüssel drew attention to the successful work of the governing coalition, e.g. the Animal Protection Act, the reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure or the part-time work scheme for parents.
The new members of government were sworn in on 25 June 2004 by President Thomas Klestil. ■
Josef Moser new President of Court of Auditors
Josef Moser (48), former leader of the FPÖ’s group in parliament and manager with the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), was sworn in on 1 July 2004 by Federal President Thomas Klestil as the new President of the Court of Auditors succeeding Franz Fiedler. He had been elected for this position on 28 June 2004 with a majority of votes of the coalition government.
The legal expert Moser paid tribute to his predecessor. Thanks to Fiedler, the Court of Auditors is an institution free from the interference of party politics. “It has become a model”, said Moser.
Moser’s term of office is twelve years. ■
“Family package” entered into force
The “family package” – prioritised in the framework of the tax reform – entered into force on 1 July 2004. With retroactive effect on 1 January 2004, an increase of the commuters’ allowance by 15% and a family addition to the sole earner’s tax credit were adopted. The latter corresponds to the family size and amounts to 130 euro for the first child, 175 euro for the second and 220 euro per year for any additional child. The discretionary earnings cap has been raised from 4,400 to 6,000 euro per year.
The parents’ part-time work scheme grants parents meeting special requirements a legal right to part-time work until the seventh birthday of the child or a later school entry of the child. The parents must have worked in an enterprise with more than 20 employees for at least three years.
The Equal Treatment Act transposes two EU directives. The Directive against Discrimination, prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation, age or religion.
The Directive against Racism demands a general prohibition of any form of racist discrimination. The Equal Treatment Committee and the Equal Treatment Panel of the Ministry for Women’s Affairs are responsible for monitoring compliance. ■
Application deadline for NS victims’ restitution extended
The victims of National Socialism or their heirs may now file applications for restitution in rem of land and buildings seized during the NS period until 31 December 2004. The Constitution Committee of the Lower House unanimously adopted a motion by the four parties that the Restitution Fund Act should be amended to extend the application deadline. Restitution of real property is subject to the provisio that it is currently held by the public sector and that no (adequate) restitution has been made. The original term expired on 27 January 2004. ■
Diplomatic Academy celebrates 40th anniversary of its foundation
The Vienna Diplomatic Academy recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a solemn ceremony, an international symposium and a summer party. The 250th anniversary of its predecessor, the Oriental Academy founded by Empress Maria Theresa, was also commemorated. The Political Academy is a post-graduate educational institution for future diplomats and executives of the economy. Among the speakers were Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner and EU Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen. ■
Federal Chancellor Schüssel: full support for Barroso
Jose Manuel Durao Barroso was an “acknowledged foreign-policy expert”. He had negotiated a “spectacular peace treaty” with Angola, and in view of his aim to represent the EU in the world, this job was tailor-made for him, said Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, after the EU heads of state and government had unanimously appointed Portuguese Prime Minister Barroso as the successor of EU Commission President Romano Prodi at a special summit in Brussels on 29 June 2004.
In the next days confidential talks would be held on the future composition of the Commission, with Austria being able to offer “a number of brilliant personalities” that were suitable candidates for the position of a commissioner, explained Schüssel. ■
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos met with Schüssel
Cypriot President and Head of Government Tassos Papadopoulos, who is touring several EU Member States, also paid a visit to Vienna, where he met for official talks with Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner and designated Federal President Heinz Fischer on 2 July 2004.
The meeting with Federal Chancellor Schüssel focused on bilateral questions, a possible intensification of cooperation at EU level as well as the problem of the divided Cyprus.
Moreover, Schüssel emphasised the close cooperation between Austria and Cyprus – being “like-minded countries“ – in the negotiations on the EU Constitution and praised the “excellent relations” between the two states. The Federal Chancellor highlighted Austria’s efforts to contribute to a solution of the Cyprus issue: “Close personal relations between our two countries have developed during the 30 years in which Austria participated in the UN mission in Cyprus. We regret that the Annan plan was rejected. But we hope that a pragmatic solution can be found soon for all parties and ethic groups involved”, said Schüssel.
The Federal Chancellor also drew attention to the intensifying economic relations between the two countries. Austria’s exports to Cyprus had grown by 70% since 1998.
Papadopoulos thanked Schüssel for Austria’s commitment to peace in Cyprus and its support during the accession negotiations with the European Union. Furthermore, the Cypriot President underlined Austria’s role as a speaker of the small and medium-sized countries during the recent EU negotiations. “With Austria’s help, the EU Constitution Treaty has been considerably improved”, stated Papadopoulos. ■
Schüssel pays official visit to Sofia
Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel paid a one-day official visit to Bulgaria on 23 June 2004. On his agenda were talks with Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburgotski, President Georgy Parvanov and President of Parliament Ognian Gerdjikov.
The reason for his visit was the 125th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Austria and Bulgaria, which date back to the Monarchy. Both heads of government stressed the friendly relations and referred to an “excellent atmosphere”.
Federal Chancellor Schüssel congratulated his counterpart on the preliminary conclusion of Bulgaria’s EU accession negotiations. The European Commis¬sion and the Council had recently confirmed that Bulgaria – together with Romania – would join the Union in January 2007. According to Schüssel, this shows that reforms are worthwhile. At the same time, the Federal Chancellor recommended to prepare Bulgaria intensively for EU accession. A lot of work was necessary to convince both the population and investors. Schüssel also demanded to “internationalise” cooperation in the combat against organised crime.
At a joint press conference the close economic relations of the two states were also addressed. Austria was the fourth largest investor in Bulgaria. Domestic exports to Bulgaria had grown by 11.4% (295 million euro) compared to 2003, while imports from Bulgaria had increased by 32.1% (157 million euro) over the same period. ■
Federal Chancellor Schüssel presented 2004 Economic Report
Jointly with Vice-President Hubert Gorbach and the competent ministers, Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel presented the federal government’s “2004 Economic Report for Austria“ on 30 June 2004. On this occasion, Schüssel emphasised the challenges facing politics in the future and the necessity of continuing the reform policy. More innovation and less obstinacy in defending privileges were required.
The imminent economic recovery was a reason for great optimism but should not give rise to shelving problems that were threatening in the long term: “Now it is important to plan on a more long-term basis”, said the Federal Chancellor. This applies to Austria’s economic policy and to an even greater extent to the European economic policy.
Europe needed a calculable policy and stability to have the necessary scope for action and develop into the most dynamic economic area of the world (Lisbon strategy, editor’s note). In the economic sector Europe finally had to become “what it could be”, said Schüssel. In this context, he demanded more investments of the EU in the fields of education and infrastructure. Austria’s achievements were exemplary. While the country’s share of research and development expenditure had still been below 2% in 2000, 2.23% and 2.5% were predicted for this year and 2005, respectively.
To face regional as well as global competition, continued efforts were required even in Austria. “Therefore, an innovative spirit is necessary. Austria has a catch-up demand for enterprises providing know-how on a continuous basis. This is a decisive factor in attracting new companies to Austria. And this is not only a challenge for entrepreneurs“, said Schüssel. There was very great demand for engineers.
Minister for Economy Martin Bartenstein stressed that real wages were increasing. According to the Economic Report, workers will receive a wage increase of 2.5% next year. This will be the first time in many years that a significant increase will be recorded. For 2004 a net increase of 0.9% in real wages per capita is expected (Source: Institute for Economic Research and national accounting). Based on data of the Ministry for Economic Affairs and of experts, the tax reform is expected to play a major role in boosting mass incomes.
The federal government’s budget for 2004 shows an expenditure of 62.6 billion euro and a revenue of 59.2 billion euro. Hence, the deficit will amount to 3.4 billion euro or 1.5% of the GDP, stated the experts. ■
Schüssel: “Opel plant in Vienna is one of the world’s top locations“
After a construction period of 17 months and thanks to investments of 380 billion euro, Opel Austria Powertrain will open a new six-speed gear unit plant in Vienna-Aspern on 30 June 2004, which is now the largest plant of the Fiat-GM joint venture.
Starting in 2006, about 800 of a total of 2,100 workers are to produce in three-shift operations up to 800,000 six-speed gear units per year for Opel, Saab, Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo.
At the opening ceremony Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel stressed Austria’s importance as a business location for international enterprises. In Austria there was a balance between quality and top economic performance on the one hand and stability, security, first- class educational/training facilities and highly committed personnel on the other hand. Austria could serve as a model for a European social partnership and security policy, said Schüssel.
A globally active group like Opel was a wonderful example how multinational cooperation could work. “Vienna-Aspern is one of the world’s top locations”, congratulated the Federal Chancellor. ■
Exports climb to record level
The Institute for Advanced Studies (Institut für Höhere Studien/IHS) predicted an export volume of 84.4 billion euro for 2004 and a value of 92 billion euro for 2005. Thus the export-import ratio as a percentage of the GDP would reach an all-time high with 36.3% this year and soar to 37.9% in 2005, as a press release of the Ministry for Economic Affairs commenting the recent IHS analysis informed. Exports are likely to climb by 7% and 9% in 2004 and 2005, respectively. ■
Franz Morak in New York: the goal is an “information society for everybody“
The Linz-based computer art festival “Ars Electronica” is celebrating its 25th anniversary in New York with interactive, stimulating retrospectives on the history of computer art (still on show until 18 July 2004). On 24 June 2004 at a gala in the Metropolitan Pavilion – an event staged as a prelude to the UN Global Compact summit – Ars Electronica awarded the “Golden Nica” for a new category of its cyberart competition, i.e. “digital communities”. The new award reflects the objectives supported by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The gala was presented by Peter Goldmark, the former managing director of Internatio¬nal Herald Tribune. Dennis Russell Davies was in charge of the musical accompaniment. Tribute was paid to those initiatives that were designed to make the world “a better place” with the aid of existing technologies, said Howard Rheingold, pioneering author inter alia of “Virtual Communities“. Secretary of State for the Arts and Media Franz Morak stated that “in the new media sector Austria was among the leaders” and that Ars Electronica did not rely on public aid but was financed by sponsors. “By launching the new Prix Ars Electronica category ‘digital communities’, Ars Electronica has made an important contribution towards the vision of an information society for everybody, for projects were awarded the prize that addressed the social effects of the Internet as well as state-of-the-art mobile communication technologies”, said Morak. The new category “digital communities“ was showing the way as it demonstrated how important qualitative content was in the information society and how the information society was revolutionising our every-day lives. A globally shared understanding of “information society” could be in the interest of all of us. As was highlighted in Geneva in 2003 at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society the aim was an “information society oriented towards the people and development“. Thanking all prize winners for their work that had won international acclaim, Morak concluded: “The projects awarded the Golden Nica and winning other prizes paradigmatically stand for this objective“. Golden Nica awards went to “The World Starts With Me“, an Internet project bringing computer-assisted sexual education and AIDS prevention to the people in Uganda, and the jointly developed Inter¬net encyclopaedia “Wikipedia“. This encyclopaedia implements the idea originally inspiring the development of the Internet, i.e. that a group of people not hierarchically organised can create and collect high-quality knowledge based on reciprocal feedback. Awards of distinction were conferred on the two German projects “democracy online today“ and “Krebs-Kompass”, the open designer platform “Open Clothes“ from Japan and the Austrian project “smart X tension“. ■
Cultural forum New York: “Austria West. New Alpine Architecture”
“The exhibition ‘Austria West. New Alpine Architecture’ offers some examples of architecture from Western Austria, where a very dynamic and unique architectural scene has emerged in the past decades. In this small part of Austria something like an architectural miracle has been accomplished”, said Secretary of State for the Arts Morak at the opening of the exhibition on architecture in Tyrol and Vorarlberg presented at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York until 30 October 2004. “For historical and cultural reasons, the architects’ profession in Tyrol and Vorarlberg has upheld a dialogue with the tradition of the master-builders“, said Morak. This is reflected in a pronounced interest in materials, above all wood and wood products. The Secretary of State also drew attention to the architecturally innovative food store chain MPreis, which will be presented in the framework of Austria’s contribution to this year’s Venice Biennial. In addition, there were numerous commercial, industrial and public buildings raising the awareness of architecture in Tyrol and making this province a “hot spot of architecture” alongside with Vorarlberg. It was a highly pleasing fact that the most outstanding architectural achievements from Western Austria are being presented in a building recently listed among the 30 future landmarks of New York. The exhibition is also shown in Helsinki and has previously toured Milan, Dornbirn (Vorarlberg), Prague and Munich. ■
2003 Art Report: promotion of regional cultural initiatives
“The development of the art budget in 2003 can be considered satisfactory. With 78.79 million euro, de facto more money was made available for artistic production last year as in 2001 and 2002 numerous special budgets and investment subsidies were due, which have been distributed in the meantime”, stated Secretary of State for the Arts Franz Morak on 22 June 2004 after the 2003 Art Report had been adopted by the Council of Ministers and passed on to Parliament. “Even without these special budgets we achieved increases in all art budgets and took important steps in 2003“, said Morak. This is illustrated by the establishment of the Gironcoli Museum in Herberstein Palace, the opening of the Choreography Centre Linz, Film Gallery Krems and the new central film archives in Laxenburg (News from Austria No. 12) or the film scholarships made available for the first time in 2003. Furthermore, last year was under the impact of the Cultural Capital Graz 2003 – an event that successfully provided new stimuli to the cultural scene in Graz and Austria as a whole, winning great international renown“. Morak pointed out that the 2003 Art Report showed for the first time the amounts allocated to the individual federal provinces to enhance transparency in this area. The budget for regional cultural initiatives – from six different federal provinces – was increased by about 12%. Important investment projects were the cultural centres in Güssing (Burgenland) and Maria Saal (Carinthia), the “Viertelfestival” (Lower Austria) and the Festival of Regions (Upper Austria).
Other achievements made in 2003 were the introduction of awards of distinction and promotional prizes for cultural projects integrating people with disabilities, the amendment of the “KommAustria” Act and the TV film promotion fund.
Morak also highlighted the positive interim results with regard to the social insurance fund for artists, which had considerably improved the social security of artists. The majority of applications for membership had been accepted. There were also plans to increase the contribution of the fund to social security by about 15% – from the current maximum of € 872 to € 1000. ■
Franz Morak: Waechter medals to Adriana Damato and Saimir Pirgu
The soprano Adriana Damato and the tenor Saimir Pirgu were awarded the 2004 Eberhard Waechter medals at Vienna State Opera on 21 June 2004 by Secretary of State for the Arts Morak. The promotional awards went to Lars Woldt and Stefan Kocán. As Morak explained, the worth of the prize has been proved by its previous winners. State Opera Director and one of the “founders” of the prize, Ioan Holender, said: “Almost all of them made a brilliant international career, also this year’s medallists will fill the opera houses of the world“. Damato, who had won Placido Domingo’s “Operalia“ competition in 2003, received the medal for her interpretation of Adalgisa in Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma“ at Stadttheater Klagenfurt. The jury was convinced by Pirgus’ excellent performance of Nemorino in Gaetano Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore“ at Vienna State Opera. The winners of the promotional awards are two young bass singers: the member of the ensemble of the Provincial Theatre of Tyrol, Lars Woldt, was granted the award for enacting van Bett in Albert Lortzing’s “Zar und Zimmermann“ at Vienna’s Volksoper, Kocán received the prize for interpreting the part of the Grand Inquisitor in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Don Carlos“ at the Provincial Theatre in Linz, where he is a member of the ensemble. The renowned prize has been awarded since 1997 to commemorate “Kammersänger” and State Opera Director Eberhard Waechter, who died in 1992. Among the former prize winners are Stefanie Bonfadelli, Adrian Eröd, Torsten Kerl and Petra Maria Schnitzer. ■
ÖAW: Hannes Androsch Foundation
Industrialist Hannes Androsch, Minister of Finance and Vice-Chancellor in the Kreisky era, wants to promote scientific projects focusing on “work and the consolidation of social balance and peace” in the future. He established a foundation within the Austrian Academy of Science (ÖAW) endowed with 1 million € and named after him. The budget will be increased to 10 million € until 2012. On 21 June 2004, the founding session was held. According to ÖAW, this is the most important private non-profit foundation in Austria since 1945. ■
Lithuania hosts Austria’s culture
Austrian cultural creators have been invited to Lithuania. As a sign of the intensified cultural relations between the Alpine and the Baltic states, a one-week festival of contemporary Austrian composers initiated by the St. Christophorus Orchestra Vilnius will be held in Vilnius in October. In August the music theatre Klaipeda (Memel) will present the concert series “From Mozart to Schönberg“. Theater Bahoo Wien is a guest at the street theatre festival “Theatre without Boundaries“ on 11 and 12 September 2004. Numerous events have been planned to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Austria Library in Vilnius, e.g. poetry readings by Alexander Peer and Erwin Uhrmann. Austria will also contribute to the “Day of European Languages” on 26 September 2004. Austria will be represented by Barbara Frischmuth at the European Literature Days in Siauliai from 19 to 21 November 2004. In 2005 also the 30th anniversary of the cultural partnership between the province of Salzburg, the city of Salzburg and Lithuania will be celebrated. An exhibition on Mozart’s oeuvre at the Lithuanian Museum of Dramatic, Musical and Cinematographic Arts and a concertante performance of the “Magic Flute” with Austrian soloists and the Lithuanian state symphony orchestra conducted by Gintaras Rinkevicius have been scheduled for 2006 – the Mozart Year and the year of the Austrian EU Council Presidency. Moreover, in autumn a decision will be taken on realising the project of a common European Cultural Capital “Linz and Vilnius” in 2009, when the 1000th anniversary of Lithuania will be commemorated (the Baltic Republic was mentioned for the first time in the Annals of Quedlingburg of 1009). ■
ImPulsTanz festival in Vienna
Vienna’s international dance festival ImPulsTanz presents 43 productions with more than 35 dance companies from all over the world (8 July to 8 August 2004). Programme highlights are premieres of artists like deufert + plischke, Frans Poelstra, Willi Dorner, Chris Haring, Raphaëlle Delaunay, new works by Mathilde Monnier, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui & Les Ballets C. de la B., Hans van den Broeck & Cie. SOIT (Stay Only If Tempo¬rary), Christian Rizzo and Akram Khan as well as works by young choreographers and revivals of international box-office hits. “Le Sacre du Printemps“ by Igor Strawinsky re-performed on the occasion of the 25th stage anniversary of the prize winning choreographer Marie Chouinard is one of the key productions of the Canadian’s oeuvre. In Vienna it will be presented together with her new work “Chorale“, an amalgam of modern tribal rituals and comic- strip elements. The innovative dance theatre of the Chinese choreographer Wen Hui, which has been compared to the works of Pina Bausch, will be on show for the first time in Vienna. ■
Exhibitions at State Archives: Semmering Railways and 175 Years DDSG
The jubilee exhibition of the Austrian State Archives (OESTA) “150 Years Semmering Railways“ presented at Altes Doktorhaus in Schottwien (Semmering/Lower Austria) until 17 October 2004 offers insight into the then highly innovative construction technology of this mountain railway section and illustrates its impact on military strategies and trade policy to the present date.
The Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv at Vienna’s Minoritenplatz presents the show “175 Years DDSG“ (ending on 25 July 2004). The exhibition starts with a map of the Iron Gate (a gorge cut by the Danube through the South Carpathian Mountains and the Serbian Ore Mountains) of 1688 and ends, after presenting a model of the “Mozart“ (the world’s largest inland waterway craft at the time of construction in 1987), with a presentation of the successor companies of the Danube Steamship Company (Donau-Dampfschifffahrts-Ge¬sellschaft/DDSG) deleted from the commercial register with effect 31 December 2003. Its legal successor is the Republic of Austria. With a total of 587 exhibits, the changing history of the old and new Austria is illustrated by steam navigation on the Danube. Based on pieces of an exhibition by the District Museum Floridsdorf (Vienna’s 21st district), the five departments of OESTA made available maps, photos, documents and files. The show is enlivened by numerous private loans, e.g. uniforms, ship models, original dishes and technical appliances, and even boasts a life buoy, a ship’s bell and a porthole. ■
TOP SPORT AUSTRIA creates ideal conditions for Olympia
Jointly with President of the Austrian Olympic Committee Leo Wallner and the representative of all Austrian federal sports associations Theo Zeh, Secretary of State Karl Schweitzer presented Austria’s preparations for Athens 2004.
“In Athens promising Austrian athletes will take up their starting positions. The federal government has made a contribution to prepare them well by granting a subsidy totalling 2,324,535 euro to 133 top athletes belonging to 19 federal sports associations“, stated Schweitzer, who also responded promptly to the individual needs of the athletes. For example, subsidies were granted to the handball team to acquire a game observation and analysis system, to the tae kwon do team to buy a fight analysis system and the table tennis team to finance training courses in Asia. To ensure that TOP SPORT AUSTRIA (TSA) will remain a coordination platform also in the future and that the desired results will be achieved, an in-depth evaluation will be made after the Olympic Games with a view to eliminating possible shortcomings. ■
Chancellor Schüssel presented Olympic gold and silver medals to Austrians
Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and President of the Austrian Olympic Committee Leo Wallner presented the gold and silver medals of the 30-km freestyle cross-country skiing competition of the XIX. Olympic winter games in Salt Lake City 2002 in the Federal Chancellery.
The event was not only an honour to the athletes Chris¬tian Hoffmann and Mikhail Botwinov but also for the Chancellor since this was the first time in the history of the Olympic Games that a federal chancellor awarded Olympic medals.
The German cross-country skier Johann Mühlegg, who competed for Spain and won two gold medals in February 2002, was stripped of the medals after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Thus, the two Austrian athletes previously ranking second and third were retroactively awarded the gold and silver medals for the 30-km freestyle cross-country skiing race.
Training centre for Nordic sports opened in Ramsau
A Nordic training centre for cross-country skiing and biathlon of a high international standing was established in Ramsau. The state-of-the-art training centre does not only offer three jumping facilities with new mats, a roller skate track and a re-designed biathlon shooting range, but also important sports and sport-medical equipment. A treadmill is the innovate core of this exemplary Nordic training facility, on which the athletes can simulate all racetracks, even in skating. Now the green light can be given for efficient preparations for the Olympic Games in 2006. ■
Mobility bus continues its tour
With the support of the technical university “Vienna Technikum”, the “mobility bus” of the Secretariat of State for Sports touring Eastern Austria until early August offers all visitors a special check-up. The persons having a check-up first fill in a questionnaire on their danger of falling, by which inter alia their risk of falling and general health status are identified. Then their balance is tested on the basis of a posturography, a biomedical method to determine coordination skills. The test results are interpreted with a view to offering special preventive training. Finally, the persons examined are tested on a “mobility course” and counselled about useful exercises to tackle possible coordination problems. ■