Culture, Media, Science
Schüssel on the Federal Army Reform: reform results adopted
At a press conference after the Council of Ministers’ session on 15 June 2004, Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel informed about the report of the Federal Army Reform Committee officially submitted by Committee Chairman Helmut Zilk the day before. “These reform results are of great importance. They are based on a compromise and are incontestable thanks to an overwhelming majority (41 votes in favour and 3 against). This is a sound basis for our future joint work”, Schüssel was pleased to state. He emphasised that the report had been prepared and accepted by the four army spokesmen of the parties, youth organisations, the social partners, provincial governments and numerous experts.
It reflected the pronounced tendency towards turning the Federal Army into a standing army and internationalising Austria’s armed forces. “It is very clear that we are addressing issues regarding the security and defence policy to be discussed in the context of the European Constitution and that we are responding to new scenarios of threat with constitutional tools”, said Schüssel. The report was founded on Austria’s full sovereignty “on the ground and in the air“.
It was still an open question how Austria would position itself after the new EU Constitution. The Federal Army Reform Committee should continue to act in an advisory capacity once the final text of European Constitution was adopted.
The numbers presented in the reform report were very precise, explained Schüssel. The total headcount of the Federal Army would be reduced from currently 110,000 to about 50,000 soldiers, half of which were to be cadre personnel in the future. A consensus had also been reached on future mandatory missions abroad for new regular soldiers and on shortening the basic military service. “In this area a major objective has been formulated, in respect of which the Minister for Defence will take more concrete steps”, said the Chancellor. ■
Schüssel: Alois Mock was a pioneer of Austria’s EU accession
With a festive event in Parliament on 8 June 2004, the official Austria celebrated the 70th birthday (10 June) of former Vice-Chancellor, Foreign Minister and Chairman of the People’s Party Alois Mock. Among those congratulating him were Federal President Thomas Klestil, Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, Vice-Chancellor Hubert Gorbach as well as leading party members and former political companions. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader also joined in and thanked Mock for his support for the recognition of Croatia in January 1992.
All official speakers praised the then Foreign Minister’s merits in the context of Austria’s EU accession in 1995. In a short statement Alois Mock recommended Austria to show “no arrogance but a bit more self-confidence“. The tribute paid to him for his commitment to Austria’s EU accession “was a high distinction”, he stated. The EU offered a “unique opportunity“, however, with no guarantee of success. Austria had to be able to enter into a dialogue across the borders, said Mock.
Federal Chancellor Schüssel reminded of the EU referendum in Austria ten years ago won with a two-thirds majority and highlighted the “great services” of Mock. Together with Mock, he had spent almost 100 hours negotiating without sleep. “It was exciting to observe how somebody wholeheartedly, brilliantly and with great tenacity was paving a way that is so important to us today”, said Schüssel, who also spotlighted Mock’s commitment to the recent EU enlargement. ■
Minister Böhmdorfer resigned
On 18 June 2004, Minister of Justice Dieter Böhmdorfer surprisingly announced his resignation. Major projects, e.g. the reform of the rules of criminal procedure, were completed. ■
Theodor-Herzl symposium in Vienna
The 5th International Theodor Herzl symposium was held in the Hall of Ceremonies of Vienna’s town hall from 14 to 17 June 2004. On 3 July Herzl’s 100th death anniversary will be commemorated.
At the opening of the symposium, its initiator, Vienna’s former mayor Helmut Zilk, praised the lawyer, journalist and “Father of Zionism” Theodor Herzl as a political thinker and humanist. ■
Federal Chancellor Schüssel at EU summit in Brussels
At the recent EU summit of heads of state and government in Brussels (17/18 June 2004) Austria was represented by Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
After lengthy negotiations the heads of state and government agreed on a common European Constitution, which could enter into force in 2007. Up to the last minute there had been bitter struggles, above all over the weighting of the votes. Finally a qualified majority representing 55% of the countries and at the same time 65% of the population had been agreed on.
Federal Chancellor Schüssel referred to a “moment of joy” and a “right answer to maybe some scepticism and justified questions about Europe”. The new Constitution would contribute to a better Europe. The result was in line with Austria’s position that had been agreed on with all parties represented in Parliament, the Federal Chancellor informed reporters. He highlighted numerous improvements resulting from the Constitution, e.g. the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, an EU Foreign Minister, the Union’s own legal personality, equality of Member States, intensified cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Majority decisions were required in 25 additional areas. The protection of minorities and equal treatment of men and women were also guaranteed. To citizens this meant a “real value-added”, said Schüssel. ■
EU election: Schüssel pleased about result but also concerned
Federal Chairman of the People’s Party (ÖVP) and Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel showed himself pleased about the result achieved by his party in the EU elections on 13 June 2004: “I am happy about the result”. With competence and fairness, the ÖVP had established itself once more as the “Party for Europe” in Austria and scored an additional 2% against the downward trend for Europe’s governing parties, stated Schüssel. The lower voter turnout (41.8%) was lamentable: “We have to take that very seriously. We have to address European issues, create a European public and communicate in a more honest and direct way with the voters”, concluded the Federal Chancellor. In this context, Schüssel also demanded “to give those a reply who maybe still asked a question today”, said Schüssel.
Austria is represented with 18 members in the European Parliament: Social Democratic Party (SPÖ): 33.5% (+1.7, 7 seats), ÖVP: 32.7% (+2.0, 6), List of Hans-Peter Martin: 14.0% (2 seats), Greens: 12.8% (+3.5, 2), Freedom Party (FPÖ): 6.3% (-17.1, 1).
The previously three strongest political groups holding almost 75% of the seats maintained their position at the EU-level. Thus, with 276 seats the European People’s Party (EPP) continues to be the largest faction in the EU Parliament, followed by the Party of European Socialists (PSE) with 200 members and the Liberal/Democratic Parties of Europe with 66 seats. With 42 seats, the Greens ranked fourth, while the group of left parties has now 39 members. ■
Patriarch Bartholomaios I. paid visit to Austria
At the federal government’s invitation, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I. of Constantinople arrived on 16 June 2004 in Austria for a seven-day official visit. The purpose of his visit were the celebrations of the “200th anniversary of the Greek school“ and “200th anniversary of the foundation of St. George’s Church in Griechengasse in Vienna“.
On his agenda were talks with Austria’s parting and future federal presidents, Thomas Klestil and Heinz Fischer, with Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, President of the Nationalrat (Lower House of Parliament) Andreas Khol, Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner as well as Vienna’s Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who hosted a reception in honour of the Patriarch. Ferrero-Waldner paid tribute to Bartholomaios I., honorary head of 350 million Orthodox Christians, for being an “important bridge builder between religions, nations and cultures”. We agreed that only a continued dialogue with Islam could guarantee stability on the Balkans in the long term, said the Minister. Vienna University awarded Bartholomaios I. a honorary doctorate in law in a formal ceremony at University. ■
OeNB spring forecast: economic upswing is stabilising
In the wake of higher oil prices, the Austrian National Bank (Oesterreichische Nationalbank/ OeNB) revised its growth projections for Austria for the years 2004 and 2005, i.e. by minus 0.1 percentage points to 1.5 and 2.4% , respectively. However, the general forecast of a moderate upswing is maintained. A growth rate of almost 3% is expected for the 4th quarter 2005, while the estimated rate for 2006 is 2.5%. In 2003 a growth of 0.9% had been registered.
“The growth of the Austrian economy will exceed the long-term average growth rate of 2% in the next years”, said Josef Christl, member of the OeNB’s board of governors on 15 June 2004 at the presentation of the spring forecast in Vienna.
However, not only the economic growth but also the prices will be adversely affected by the increased oil prices. For 2004 the OeNB revised its projected inflation rate based on the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) also by plus 0.1 percentage points to 1.7%. For 2005 the forecast of 1.5% remains unchanged, while the value for 2006 was slightly revised to 1.6%. However, with that Austria was still one quarter to one half percentage point below the average of the euro area, stressed Christl.
The situation on the domestic labour market was not expected to relax for the time being. “We have an increasing labour supply, which inter alia is due to the increase in the number of foreign workers and longer working lives of older workers”, said Christl. Labour demand was also increasing, but at a slower pace. The OeNB expects a significant decrease in the number of unemployed from 4.5% in this year to 4.1% in 2006. ■
Austria’s trade is booming
Austria’s trade deficit decreased from 806.3 million euro to 136.5 million euro in the first quarter 2004. These data were announced by the Austrian Statistical Office on 14 June 2004. With 20.6 billion euro, the total volume of imports exceeded the prior-year result by 0.9%. In the same period exports increased to 20.5 billion euro, corresponding to a plus of 4.4%. In March 2004 a plus of 12.3% was registered. “This is really more than one swallow – its a real flock. We are heading in the right direction“, Minister for Economic Affairs Martin Bartenstein was highly pleased to explain. These data were a “remarkable result”. With regard to the general economic trend in Austria he was “cautiously optimistic”, said Bartenstein.
According to Ewald Kutzenberger of the Austrian Statistical Office, the data of March were the highest monthly results ever achieved in the import and export sector. In March goods worth 7.77 billion euro were imported, while exports totalled 7.73 billion euro. Capital goods ranked first, which was a positive sign, explained Kutzenberger.
In the first quarter 2004, trade with the USA had for the first time made the largest contribution to the trade balance. This was mainly due to declining imports of cars and pharmaceutical products, on the one hand and increasing exports of motor vehicles, beverages and wood, on the other hand.
The highest deficit was recorded in trade with Germany. Imports from the EU-15 declined by 0.5%, while those from the EU-25 increased by 1.6%. Exports to these areas climbed by 1.5% and 4.3%, respectively.
Austria’s foreign trade with the new EU Member States increased significantly over the first three months 2004. Compared to the same period of 2003, imports rose by 15.1% to 2.34 billion euro, exports by 10.4% to 2.6 billion euro. ■
Federal housing agencies sold for 961 million euro to “Austro-Consortium”
The Republic of Austria sells the federal housing agencies Buwog, WAG, EBS and ESG for officially about 1 billion euro to private interested parties.
The four enterprises will be transferred to the so-called “Austro-Consortium“ (Raiffeisenlandes¬bank Oberösterreich, Immofinanz, Wiener Städtische, Oberösterreichische Landesbank and OÖ Versicherung) for 961 million euro, stated Minister of Finance Karl-Heinz Grasser on 15 June 2004. This affects a total of 62,500 flats. Immofinanz, Austria’s largest stock-noted real estate company, takes over Buwog with about 20,000 flats. ■
Morak: Promotional Prizes for Literature to Kehlmann and Hotschnig
The two authors Daniel Kehlmann (29) and Alois Hotschnig (44) were awarded the 2003 Promotional Prize for Literature by Secretary of State for the Arts Franz Morak. The two authors would show “with language-awareness and language power“, but without the media ballyhoo and outside the mainstream what language art can achieve, said Morak: “Who reads the books of the prize winners, will easily realise the difference between art and craft, intellect and a passing fad, literature and just writing.”
Prominent authors delivered laudatory speeches. In her tribute to Daniel Kehlmann, Friederike Mayröcker focused on his novel “Mahlers Zeit“. Josef Winkler mainly dealt with Hotschnig’s latests book “Ludwigs Zimmer“, a novel “searching for the lost childhood”, whose “parental and relational environment” the Carinthian author Winkler knows from his own experience.
Alois Hotschnig was born in Berg in the Drau valley (Carinthia) in 1959. He studied medicine and then German and English language and literature in Innsbruck. He has been living as a free-lance author in Innsbruck since 1989. Besides the above-mentioned novels, he wrote stories, radio plays and the theatre play “Absolution“. Hotschnig currently lives and holds a scholarship in Bamberg (Germany).
Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975. He has been living since his earliest childhood in Vienna, where he studied philosophy and literature. In 1997 he launched a brilliant author’s career with the novel “Beerholms Vorstellung“. After publishing his volume of stories “Unter der Sonne“, he was contracted by the publishing house Suhrkamp. With “Mahlers Zeit”, he produced a thrilling scientific novel in 1999. After “Der fernste Ort“, the ironical artist’s novel “Ich und Kaminiski“ appeared in 2003, in which a blind painter is confronted with a pretentious biographer. ■
Vienna’s Literaturhaus: Anna Mahler
Anna Mahler (1904-1988) would have celebrated her 100th birthday on 15 June 2004. As an homage to the sculptor, who was the daughter of Alma Mahler-Werfel and Gustav Mahler, Vienna’s Literaturhaus opened an exhibition and presented a book in the presence of her daughter Alma Zsolnay. Although Anna Mahler had worked as a sculptor all through her life, her public image has evolved almost exclusively in a literary context. For example, her friend Elias Canetti immortalised her in his novel “The Play of the Eyes“, and Robert Neumann portrayed her in his exile novel “The Inquest”. But the disciple of Fritz Wotruba has not received adequate recognition for her highly interesting work.
Anna Mahler, who was married to the musician Rupert Koller (son of the painter Broncia Koller), the composer Ernst Krenek, the publisher Paul Zsolnay, the conductor Anatol Fistoulari and the film cutter Albrecht Joseph, has lived all through her life in an intense artistic and intellectual environment, which is also reflected in her portrait busts, e.g. of Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg and Bruno Walter. She spent the war period in London, then lived in Los Angeles and bought a palazzo in Spoleto (Italy) after her mother’s death. She worked on her monumental sculptures with their archaic forms up to the very last moment. Concurrently with the exhibition, the book “Anna Mahler. Ich bin in mir selbst zu Hause“, ed. by Barbara Weidle and Ursula Seeber (Weidle Verlag) was published. The exhibition presenting small sculptures, photographs, sketches, manuscripts and the like can be visited until 17 September 2004. ■
steirischer herbst 2004 premieres Wolfgang Bauer
A premiere of a work by Wolfgang Bauer, the dramatist from Graz, is on top of the programme of the Styrian autumn festival (“steirischer herbst“), which will take place from 7 October to 7 November 2004.
Symptomatically, this year’s motto of “steirischer herbst” is “crisis as always“. Festival manager Peter Oswald emphasised: “The autumn festival is not in a crisis”. But festival president Kurt Jungwirth had previously stated that the situation had become “more difficult”. The conversion into a limited liability company (GmbH) aims at making the financial management more transparent and creating a sound basis for financing the new Helmut List Hall.
The forthcoming Styrian autumn festival is kicked off with the play “Foyer“ by Wolfgang Bauer, staged by “Theater im Bahnhof“. The premiere of “streifen“, a play by Gerhild Steinbuch, will be a co-production with Schauspielhaus Graz. “junk space“ is the title of Kathrin Röggla’s work to be premiered, which is produced jointly with Zürcher Theater am Neumarkt. A radio play titled “Im Gesäuse“ based on a concept by Winkler will take place in a mountain hut in Johnsbach in Upper Styria.
Peter Pakesch, Peter Weibel, Kathrin Bucher and Heinz Stahlhut are the curators of the exhibition at Kunsthaus: “Bewegliche Teile“ explores the topicality of machine and kinetic art. The composer Olga Neuwirth is responsible for the multimedia project “...ce qui arrive...“, in which also the Ensemble Modern will participate.
“musikprotokoll“, a standard item on the festival programme, will be held under the motto “Übertragung – transfer/ence“ from 22 to 26 October 2004. ■
Picture Archives of the Austrian National Library on the Internet
The Picture Archives of the Austrian National Library offer a new online platform, which was financed by the Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture. 50,000 pictures of contemporary history from the archives of the Austrian National Library, the historical archives of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), the Association for the History of the Workers’ Movement and the Association of the Institute for Contemporary History of Vienna University are now available for scientific research, but also commercial and editorial use, under www.bildarchivaustria.at.
The Picture Archives of the Austrian National Library digitalise annually 12,000 pictures on a wide range of subjects, such as every-day life, politics, curios, culture, sports, science, technology. They are classified by subjects and integrated into a web portal, which is updated on an ongoing basis. Thanks to the digital format, the photographic documents are accessible worldwide and to everybody, while the valuable originals are protected in an optimal way.
The collection policy of the Picture Archives focuses on journalistic photography and the visual documentation of the Austrian history after 1945. In the context of preparations for the exhibition “Die junge Republik. Alltagsbilder aus Österreich 1945-1955“, which will be on show at the Austrian National Library’s Prunksaal in spring 2005, the photographic sources of the after-war period are to be documented. Moreover, the important estates on documentary photography in Austria – of Lothar Rübelt, Harry Weber and Otto Croy – will be organised and made accessible on the Internet. ■
New “Culture – Central Europe Platform”: Central European poetry in Dublin
In the framework of the “Culture – Central Europe Platform”, the cultural Regional Partnership between Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Austria founded in June 2001, the event titled “City of Poets” and dedicated to Central European poetry was staged in Dublin on 17 June 2004 on the occasion of the Irish EU Council Presidency.
In this context, Federal Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner stressed the importance of the “Culture – Central Europe Platform” within the Regional Partnership: “With EU enlargement taking effect on 1 May 2004, an important first phase of the Regional Partnership has been completed successfully. In the second phase now starting, the focus will be on representing joint initiatives within the EU and, especially in this context the “Culture – Central Europe Platform” plays a central role. The six countries represented in the Platform are given an opportunity to present their cultural and economic areas with all their intellectual, cultural and regional assets and products in the European Union. This improves the global knowledge, enhances the opportunities of cultural creators, and thus makes an important contribution to the identities of the EU partners.”
In the framework of the renowned annual Dublin Writers’ Festival, the six EU partner countries and Ireland presented Central European and Irish lyric poetry at the Project Arts Center Dublin. The event was under the patronage of the two literature Nobel prize winners Czeslaw Milosz and Seamus Heaney. Poets like Katerina Rudcenková and Petr Hruska (Czech Republic), Anna T. Szabó and Gyözö Ferencz (Hungary), Tadeusz Pióro and Andrzej Sosnowski (Poland), Martin Solotruk and Peter Sulej (Slovakia), Lucija Stupica and Ales Steger (Slovenia), Christine Huber and Christoph W. Bauer (Austria) as well as the two Irish poets Áine Ní Ghlinn and Randolph Healy enchanted the audience with their poetry. ■
Salzburg’s 2004 Jazzherbst festival: piano gods live and on the screen
Piano virtuosos are in the limelight of Salzburg’s jazz autumn festival (“Salzburger Jazzherbst”) with about 100 events from 29 October to 7 November 2004. The audience will be able to enjoy live performances by artists like Dave Brubeck, Kenny Barron, Mulgrew Miller, Benny Green, Eric Reed, Axel Zwingenberger, Ray Bryant, Roland Batik, Sabina Hank and Rudi Wilfer. In the framework of the festival, 14 films on groundbreaking pianists are shown, e.g. about Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Lennie Tristano, Ahmad Jamal, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Chick Corea, Friedrich Gulda, Thelonious Monk (documentary produced by Clint Eastwood), Erroll Garner, Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock. Superb traditional big band jazz is offered by the Count Basie Orchestra and the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Star Big Band. A concertante performance is given of the Mass “To Hope!“ by Dave Brubeck with his quartet, the Mozarteum Orchester, with a large choir and solo singers. Miriam Makeba, the legendary “voice of Africa“, will open the festival. The programme format “Jazz from Austria“ developed by the jazz anchorman of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), Klaus Schulz, presents the elite of Austrian musicians from Heinz von Hermann and Karlheinz Miklin to Christian Havel and Rudi Berger. “Jazz in der Altstadt“ offers more than 50 concerts with ensembles from Salzburg in the historic city centre (free admission). György Orbàn’s “Missa Secunda“ will be performed in a Sunday Mass at the Cathedral. ■
Koeppen prize to Ludwig Fels
The Wolfgang Koeppen prize awarded every second year by the city of Greifswald (Germany) to commemorate its great son and author of “Tauben im Gras“ goes to the Austrian author and lyric poet Ludwig Fels for his complete oeuvre. Among the most popular works of the Viennese is the novel “Der Himmel war eine große Gegenwart“ (1990) and the play “Soliman“, which was premiered in 1991 as a cooperative project of the Bregenz Festival and Vienna’s Volkstheater.
Secretary of Sports Schweitzer pioneering in Parliament
“It is increasingly difficult to finance Austria’s highly developed health system”, Karl Schweitzer stated on the subject “sport promotes health – prevention instead of therapy“ in a special session on topical issues in Parliament.
The Secretary of State emphasised once more that 11 percent of the gross domestic product were spent on a “sickness-oriented system” that should have been reformed long ago. Thus, Schweitzer has established a direct connection between the forthcoming budget negotiations for the next two years and the deteriorating health of the Austrian population. “60 percent practically don’t do anything. This potential has to be developed strategically”, the Secretary of State for Sports formulated his objective. According to him, regular physical exercise and sport are a contribution to a solution.
According to a study of the Institute of Higher Studies (IHS), up to 1.7 percent of the GDP (3.6 billion euro) per year would become available if sport was turned into a service provider to the health system. With his “Fit for Austria” campaign, Schweitzer, who considers reform approaches based on traditional concepts inadequate, does not only draw attention to the potential of organised sport in Austria but also pioneers a long-term reduction of sickness-related costs and a new health system. ■
Olympia – then and now
Including the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the Olympic movement of the modern age looks back on a history of 108 years. It was only after a lecture by French baron Pierre de Coubertin at the Sorbonne in Paris on 25 November 1892 that a new international movement was started and that the 1168-year tradition of the Olympic Games was revived. Comparing the “ritual“ games of antiquity with the “commercial events” of the modern times, some parallels become manifest. While just like in ancient times, the Olympic Games are an attraction and a worthy spectacle for the audience, today the power of the media makes a difference. Then and now, athletes have been competing and fighting duels, but now there is also a contest among nations, as is reflected in the struggle for medals. It has not only been a phenomenon of the games in Greece to win victories with unfair means. Numerous doping cases are the contemporary equivalent of the scandals in ancient times.
It has not been possible to stop the trend towards professional sports and an increasing number of competitions. Then, ritual games in disciplines such as running, throwing and jumping exercises, fistfight, wrestling, Pankration, pentathlon as well as horse and carriage races were held. In the Athens Olympic Games (from 13 to 30 August 2004) more than 11,000 athletes from almost 200 nations will participate in 296 competitions in 28 different disciplines. Austrian top-level sports have an excellent record in the Olympic Games. Top athletes won 22 gold medals, 33 silver medals and 38 bronze medals in the summer games as well as 42 gold medals, 57 silver medals and 63 bronze medals in the winter games. To repeat the dazzling success of the past summer games in Sydney, “Top Sport Austria“ (TSA) was launched in 2003. The aim of the TSA’s two programmes promoting top-level sports – “SPITZENSPORT“ and “ATHEN 2004“ – is to facilitate preparations of federal specialised sports associations for international mass sports events. Jointly with the Austrian Olympic Committee and the ÖBH, the Secretariat of State for Sports supports the Austrian team both with firm commitment and financial resources for Athens 2004.
All those involved face the games in the motherland of the Olympic idea with a lot of optimism. With its historic metropolis Athens, then as now Greece has not only been a cult site of antiquity but after 108 years it has become once more the centre of global public attention. ■