Culture, Media, Science
Gusenbauer: EU plans to suspend university access proceedings
An interim solution seems likely in the conflict about the quota system governing access to Austrian medical faculties. In a letter to Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso announced that the proceedings before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against Austria would be suspended for five years. The respective decision would be prepared in the next weeks. A “prospect” was raised that ”the Commission could come to another decision”, explained the Federal Chancellor on 17 October 2007 at a press conference in Parliament. This was the first time that Brussels signalled acceptance of and understanding for this specific Austrian problem. The suspension of the action for five years gave Austria time “to substantiate the arguments presented by us more clearly“ and to find a permanent solution for quotas for medical students from other EU Member States entering Austrian universities, said Gusenbauer. The recognition of the problem indicated by the Commission President also meant legal certainty during the suspension of the proceedings.
Austria had already submitted comprehensive information to the Commission. “Our projections show clearly hat the large influx of non-Austrian medical students could lead to a shortage in medical doctors in Austria as from 2015“, explained the Chancellor. Gusenbauer also addressed this university issue at the EU summit in Lisbon (18/19 October 2007).
The Austrian federal government always high-lighted the fact that a shortage of medical doctors was threatening. Therefore it reserved 75 percent of the study places for Austrians by means of a quota system. In the past, Brussels rejected these restrictions of access on the grounds of discrimination against foreign students, initiating proceedings before the ECJ for violating the treaty. In the above-mentioned letter to Gusenbauer, Barroso showed understanding for Austria’s position. The aim of the envisaged suspension of the proceedings was to give Austria time to reflect on the reasonableness of the measures and, if possible, to present new facts. Based on a solution conforming to EU legislation, there was no obstacle to discontinuing the proceedings at a later date. ■
Green light for online surveillance
Based on a basic agreement between Minister of Justice Maria Berger and Minister of the Interior Günther Platter, the Council of Ministers gave the green light for online surveillance on 17 October 2007. The details are to be prepared by a working group by February 2008. The new online surveillance law could be adopted in autumn 2008.
The new law will allow the security authorities to install so-called Trojan Horses on the private computers of suspects to access their hard disks. Berger and Platter are of the opinion that this measure does not violate the Basic Law for “a strong suspicion” of a severe or terrorist crime subject to a minimum sentence of ten years” is a sine qua non for the surveillance of e-mails, chats and Internet phone calls. In addition, approvals by a judge and the legal protection officer are required. “Numerous complaint mechanisms” are envisaged, e.g. a right of complaint of the Data Protection Commission. ■
Chancellor Gusenbauer: education as a key to integration
The Integration Platform initiated by the federal government was established in Vienna on 15 October 2007. Besides the government leaders, the competent ministers as well as representatives of the Länder, communities, social partners, autochthonous ethnic groups, religious communities and NGOs participated in the opening event. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer explained that the aim of the commission was not to legitimise the government policy but to prepare new, interesting proposals. He mentioned education and sport as examples. Integration through educational policy provided immigrants with opportunities for social advancement.
The Integration Platform will present a first report by the end of January. Subsequently, an integration strategy is to be developed in the framework of an extensive debate by summer 2008. Minister of the Interior Günther Platter will submit a set of measures developed on this basis to the government. The Integration Platform is to submit progress reports at six-month intervals. ■
Chancellor Gusenbauer: “The EU Reform Treaty has been agreed on“
The EU heads of state and government agreed on the new EU Reform Treaty at the Lisbon summit (18/19 October 2007). EU Council President José Sócrates described it as an “agreement for the future of Europe” and declared the end of the institutional crisis of the Union. The new Reform Treaty is to enter into force at the beginning of 2009. Its aim is to enhance the efficiency of the enlarged 27-member EU. The majority voting principle is strengthened. The Commission and Parliament are downsized. Moreover, the EU will get a President of the European Council appointed for two and a half years and a chief diplomat with more responsibilities.
Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer ex-pressed his pleasure about the consensus: “The Reform Treaty has been agreed on, all open questions have been clarified“. The “Treaty of Lisbon“ will be signed in Lisbon on 13 Decem-ber 2007. It ensures the functioning of the enlarged Union and enshrines legally binding fundamental social rights. The Chancellor also highlighted the improved distribution of powers between the EU and the Member States. Additional responsibilities would be transferred from the national to the European level. However, in the event of undesired effects, it would be possible to retransfer these power to the members. As far as the solidarity clause (duty to support one another) is concerned, Gusenbauer pointed out that military actions required the consent of all EU Member States. The individual members were allowed to decide whether and how they wanted to participate.
The period of “self-reflection” of the EU was over. Based on the new Reform Treaty, the EU was ready to tackle current issues important to the citizens. According to Gusenbauer, these were topics like globalisation, climate protection and a more social Europe. Austria would strongly benefit from the enshrinement of basic social rights. The Chancellor also emphasised that he was committed to reducing transit traffic through Austria in the framework of the EU climate protection policy. He clearly rejected a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty. Ratification was the task of Parliament. Austria had ratified all EU treaties through Parliament in the past. ■
Federal President Fischer pays official visit to Egypt
On 21 October 2007 President Heinz Fischer arrived for a three-day official visit in Egypt. Items on his agenda are a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. Besides bilateral issues, the presidents discuss the situation in the Middle East, the Dafur conflict, the nuclear issue with Iran and the development in Iraq. Fischer is accompanied by his wife Margit and a high-ranking delegation, including Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, Secretary of State Christa Kranzl, Vice-President of the Economic Chamber Austria Richard Schenz as well as representatives of business, culture and universities. ■
Federal Chancellor in Luxembourg
On 11 October 2007 Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer met with Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker in Luxembourg. Their talks focused on the EU Reform Treaty, the quota system for foreign medical students in Austria, climate protection and the Western Balkans. ■
Bures: “Trafficking in human beings is trafficking in women“
On the “EU Anti-Trafficking Day” (16 October 2007) Minister for Women’s Affairs Doris Bures, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, Minister of Justice Maria Berger and Minister of the Interior Günther Platter jointly commented the problem of trafficking in women. They advocated a joint approach of the government and drew attention to the “National Action Plan Against Trafficking in Human Beings“. “Trafficking in human beings is trafficking in women“, stated Bures. She emphasised that about 80 percent of the victims were women or children. As each year 700,000 women were “deceived, threatened, coerced and exploited“, there was an urgent need for action. Bures warned against associating trafficking in women only with forced prostitution, the smuggling of migrants or illegal immigration. Another frequent form of trafficking in women was to exploit them as cheap labour. The secure financing of the intervention centre for affected women was good news. ■
OeNB: new record of Austrian foreign investment
Both the investments of Austrian enterprises abroad as well as the foreign direct investment in Austria are expected to reach new record levels in 2007. Domestic enterprises invested about 14 billion euros abroad, this is almost double the amount invested throughout 2006. With about 12 billion euros, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Austria also increased by more than 50 percent.
“The Austrian economy shows an increasing trend towards internationalisation”, explained Aurel Schubert, head of the Statistical Department of the Austrian National Bank (OeNB) at the presentation of the “World Investment Report 2007“on 16 October 2007. A major part of these investments went to the financial sector (banks and insurance companies), which played a leading role in FDI in Central and Eastern Europe, said Schubert.
The OeNB points out that Bank Austria Creditanstalt (BA-CA) alone increased the balance sheet total in this sector from 40 to 70 billion euros by transferring powers from the Italian parent UniCredit in Eastern Europe. In a countermove 55 million BA-CA shares were transferred to the Italians, which is reflected in the FDI in Austria. According to the OeNB, Erste Bank, Raiffeisen and Volksbanken also continued to invest.
At the turn of the year 2005/2006 (available total figures), Austria was the largest foreign investor in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia. But domestic enterprises were also highly active in other Eastern European countries. At the end of 2005 1048 domestic companies held shares in a total of foreign 3013 subsidiaries. Thus investments climbed by 10.5 percent year-on-year. In total Austrian investors held stakes in foreign companies totalling 55.5 billion euros. The investments of foreign enterprises in Austria amounted to 58.9 billion euros. ■
Austrian Development Bank to be launched in 2008
The planned Austrian Development Bank is to start operations at the beginning of 2008. The respective resolution was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 17 October 2007. This measure will bridge a wide gap between the existing export promotion scheme meeting predominantly commercial requirements and traditional development aid, explained the two Secretaries of State Hans Winkler (Foreign Ministry) and Christoph Matznetter (Ministry of Finance).
In the past there have been two instruments to promote economic cooperation between Austria and the developing countries: either export guarantees of Kontrollbank or the official development aid system “Development Cooperation” (“Entwicklungszusammenarbeit” /EZA). The new Development Bank was opening a “third door” for long-term projects in the developing countries as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, said Matznetter.
The Development Bank (a subsidiary of Kontrollbank) will start operations with a guarantee cover of 100 million euros. If the project is successful, the guarantees will be stepped up. ■
Record level of companies choosing Austria for their headquarters
Austria’s attractiveness as a business location has clearly improved compared to 2006. In the first nine month of this year ten international investors set up their (Eastern) European company headquarters in Austria. “In the first three quarters of 2007, the number of company seats established in this country is five times higher than the total number of 2006, explained René Siegl, head of the Austrian Business Agency (ABA) in a press release of 15 October 2007. After the large groups, an increasing number of smaller and mid-sized companies discovered Austria as a location for their headquarters. Six of ten companies counselled by ABA were medium-sized enterprises from Germany. ■
Airbus A380: high-tech from Austria
The new Airbus A380 took to the sky on 15 October 2007. Hundreds of components of the aircraft were produced by ten Austrian companies, e.g. the flap track fairings and engine cowlings. Austrian components suppliers are: FACC, AMAG, HTP, TT-Tech, Böhler, Wild Austria, Isovolta, MCE, Test-Fuchs and Hitzinger. ■
Gusenbauer: Austria has to catch up with international research elite
At the opening ceremony of the “Austrian Research Dialogue” initiated by Minister of Science Johannes Hahn in Vienna on 16 October 2007, Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer stated that there was “no alternative” to catching up with the international research elite. Hahn informed that it was an objective to have an Austrian Nobel Prize laureate in the next ten years.
In the recent past, Austria had been able to improve its position in technology and to come closer to the top, said Gusenbauer. In the next years the country had to make it to the international top – there were no alternatives. “On a long-term basis it is not possible to make up for insufficiently radical innovation by cost-reduction strategies having an adverse effect on the labour force. Currently, the research expenditure corresponded to 2.54 percent of Austria’s gross domestic product (GDP), which was above the EU average. Austria had to pursue the goal of becoming one of the most highly developed knowledge-based societies. The public sector played a crucial role in this development but increases in spending alone would not guarantee an increase in wealth. It was crucial to boost the efficiency in areas where Austria was only average. In this context, Gusenbauer also mentioned the evaluation of the entire domestic research promotion mechanisms by the Ministry of Infrastructure headed by Minister Werner Faymann. It was also important to involve Austrian research in international activities, stated the Chancellor. Therefore Austria also applied as a host country for the administrative seat of the European Institute for Technology. In addition, Gusenbauer highlighted the connection between research and education. The aim had to be to remove all social and gender-specific barriers. Therefore it was important to increase the share of female researches in technology and the natural sciences. To promote the influx of young foreign researches, immigration rules were relaxed for researchers; changes of the employment terms would also help to improve the situation.
Besides the public sector, enterprises also played a crucial role in research. The Chancellor drew attention to the so-called “Innovation Cheque” for small and medium-sized companies and subsidies for the further development of renewable energies in the framework of the Climate Fund. However, financial support for research alone was obviously inadequate to motivate companies to intensify their research activities as market opportunities were also decisive. In this context, Gusenbauer referred to the federal government’s “Innovation Summit“ on 27 November 2007, which will be held annually in the future. By way of conclusion the Chancellor stated: “Especially rich export-oriented countries with a lack of raw materials will not be able to maintain their level unless they can offer innovative products and services other countries require but do not yet produce“.
Like Gusenbauer, Hahn also reiterated that it was crucial for Austrian research to reach a three-percent research ratio by 2010, with sustainability issues playing a major role. The plan of creating clusters of excellence was welcomed by everybody but the exciting task would be to define the content.
According to the newly set up homepage, the “Research Dialogue” is a joint project of all the ministries active in this sector and led by the Minister of Science. The “Research Dialogue” has been conceived as “a platform for all those interested in further developing and reshaping Austria’s research landscape“ before the technology talks in Alpbach. The homepage is to facilitate a “web-based dialogue with the public”. The opening ceremony will be succeeded by six public dialogue events and six “fireside talks” (“Kamingespräche”) in different Austrian cities. Moreover, expert talks will be held at parliamentary level. The “Research Dialogue” should lead to a “reservoir of ideas”, which politicians could draw on as a basis for decision-making. Moreover, it is to provide guidance for future measures, e.g. the 2009-2011 National Reform Programme and a new strategy of the Council for Research and Technology Development (RFT). ■
Austrian State Prize for European Literature to A.L. Kennedy
Scottish author A.L. Kennedy, aged 41, will be awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature 2007. “After a long interval the prize is again granted to a woman author”, said Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied, announcing the decision at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 10 October 2007. The author was “one of the most important and original voices of contemporary literature“. A.L. Kennedy often combines hard realism with fantastic elements in her works. Her study “On Bullfighting“ (1999) became famous (the German translation “Stierkampf“ appeared in 2001). Her latest works are her novels “Paradise“ published in 2004 (German translation: “Paradies”, 2005) and “Day“ (2007).
Former Austrian State Prize winners include Jorge Semprún (2006), Claudio Magris, Julian Barnes, Cees Nooteboom, Christoph Hein, Umberto Eco and António Lobo Antunes (2000).
This year’s Austrian State Prize for Literary Criticism goes to Franz Josef Czernin, aged 55. According to Schmied, the jury had not proposed “a ‘traditional’ reviewer and newspaper journalist” but a “writer and poet, in whose work the essay but also the criticism of literary criticism plays a major role”. The “Würdigungspreis”, an award granted in recognition of an author’s work was conferred on Michael Köhlmeier, 57, a “writer and narrative writer” highly popular with the critics and the audience”. His novel “Abendland“ was published recently.
The “Förderungspreis”, a prize offered to promote writers, goes to Viennese author Brigitta Falkner, 48, and Wolfgang Hermann, 46, born in Bregenz. Hermann had recently also received the Anton Wildgans Prize. In her speech Schmied underlined that the “emphasis” was on “prize”, for due to the high literary level of both writers – who could not be more different – it was inadequate to speak of “promoting” them. Falkner had won renown for books like “Fabula Rasa“ or “Bunte Tuben. Anagramm“ and is above all known for performances, where she skilfully presents her palindroms and lipograms. Hermann’s latest novel is “Herr Faustini verreist“.
Schmied described the Austrian State Prize for Children’s Literature (awarded every second year) as a “very special prize”. It is presented to Gerda Anger-Schmidt, 64, writing books for kids and teens. She won the prize for her book (co-authored by Renate Habinger) “Muss man Miezen siezen?“ (Residenz-Verlag). Schmied: “You know that as a Minister of Education, children’s and youth literature is a special concern of mine. For the enthusiasm for literature has to be kindled in children and young people“. ■
Vienna gets its own book fair
At the Frankfurt Book Fair, Minister for Culture Schmied and Vienna’s Executive City Councillor for Cultural Affairs Andreas Mailath-Pokorny presented details about the planned new book fair in Vienna. “Buch Wien“ (“Vienna Book”) will be realised next year. The international book fair will be held for the first time at the Trade Fair Centre in Prater from 20 to 23 November 2008. It will also host the traditional book festival, which this year is staged for the 60th time at the City Hall. The new fair will cater both for the readers and international experts. The event will be accompanied by the “Lese-festwoche”, a “readers’ festival” held at different venues in Vienna. ■
Viennale Film Festival 2007
The Viennale Film Festival 2007 (still running through 31 October 2007) is organised based on its proven concept, consisting of a main programme, tributes and special programmes. This year the main programme – a selection of the latest, full-length feature films and documentary films – comprises about 120 new works. All of them are Austrian premiers, some are even world premiers, e.g. “Monkey Warfare“ (Canada), “El hombre robado“ (Argentina), “Ma Wu Jia“ (China), “Balaou“ (Portugal) or “Thomas Harlan – Moving Shrapnel“ (Germany). This offer is rounded off by premiers of Austrian productions such as “Nur kein Mitleid“ (Peter Kern), “Hermes Phettberg, the Wretched“ (Kurt Palm) or “Gibellina – Il terremoto“ (Joerg Burger).
Furthermore, Viennale devotes a special section to unknown filmmakers creating obstinate and independent works, e.g. Laura Dunn, Gonçalo Tocha, Matthew Porterfield, Tan Chui Mui, Khavn, Nicolas Prividera or John Gianvito. However, the programme also includes star film directors like Gus van Sant, Ang Lee, Paul Schrader, Joel and Ethan Coen or George A. Romero.
The retrospective “The Way of the Termite”
shows examples of “The Essay in Cinema 1909-2004” – radical works opposing the mainstream, both in formal and political terms. Viennale’s approach is based on open programming and a wide range and great diversity of works. Maybe because there is no star hype, Viennale attracts experts, such as this year’s guest of honour US actress Jane Fonda, cameraman and double Oscar winner Haskell Wexler, film directors like Masahiro Kabayashi, Hal Hartley or Todd Haynes. For many years great filmmakers such as Peter Hutton, Harun Farocki, Nina Menkes or Jean-Claude Rousseau have been attendees and guests of the highly interesting festival that has become part and parcel of Vienna’s cultural life. ■
Autumn highlight: Wien Modern 07
“Wien Modern”, the festival featuring contemporary music, will be staged at Konzerthaus, Tanzquartier, Semperdepot and Alte Schmiede from 1 November to 1 December 2007. The festival turns the spotlight on the life and works of Luciano Berio and Georg Friedrich Haas. In the 1950s Berio (1925-2003) helped to shape electronic music and remained a “sound researcher” throughout his life. He left one of the most outstanding oeuvres in 20th century music. 14 concerts, film screenings and projects will give insight into the creation of the Italian, whom his friend Umberto Eco described as follows: “He simply wanted to tear down the barrier that had been put up between art and entertainment“.
G. F. Haas – born in Graz in 1953 – strives to explore infinite microtonal sound worlds. To him, sounds are “living beings unfolding in space and time”. About 50 compositions – among them three operas, several string quartets and numerous ensemble and orchestra works – make him one of Austria’s internationally most important artists. The award ceremony of the Great Austrian State Prize 2007 coincides with the presentation of his work in the framework of Wien Modern, presenting twelve Haas concerts.
The film programme of the festival offers a retrospective about the oeuvre of Dutch filmmaker Frank Scheffer (born in 1956). His filmmaking and documentary work are closely associated with the history of music in the 20th century, which he investigates in all its multi-facetted aspects: from Mahler and Schönberg to Boulez, Berio, Stockhausen and Zappa. At the opening of the festival, Scheffer’s first full-length film “Time is Music“ (1987), with John Cage and Elliot Carter, is shown. In spring 2007 the Amsterdam Film Museum took over the complete archives of the filmmaker aged 51 – a very rare honour.
Another section of the Wien Modern festival is devoted to sound machines, from mechanical automats and electrically operated machines to electronic instruments and turntables. They are not merely (automatically playing) exhibits but play an active role in the happenings on stage in a number of concerts and performances.
The festival “Dschungel Wien Modern” offers music theatre and dance projects, performances, concerts and workshops for the young and the young at heart. ■
Museum of Art History: late Titian and sensuality
In cooperation with Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice and the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Veneziano, the Vienna Museum of Art History (KHM) shows the exhibition “Late Titian and the Sensuality of Painting”, ending on 6 January 2008. About 60 paintings, 30 of which are on loan from other collections, are displayed. The focus of this selection of works is on Titian’s 25 last years of creation. The paintings are examined against the background of his family life as well as the role of the members of his workshop. 15 16th-century graphic works from Vienna Albertina demonstrate the great impact of the master. Titian’s late painting technique seems very modern from today’s perspective. His increasingly free brushwork culminating in the application of patches of rough colour (the so-called “pittura di macchie”) irritated his contemporaries. Only in the recent past was his revolutionary painting recognised as a powerful stylistic technique intensifying the dramatic effect. The sensuality of his late brushwork climaxed in the erotic-poetic paintings, with which he celebrated the beauty of the female body. The most expensive show ever presented at the KHM (based on the insured sum) was inaugurated by Federal President Heinz Fischer on 17 October 2007. In his opening statement the President underlined the responsibility of museums for research. ■
Reform Treaty strengthens sport in Europe
The news that the Reform Treaty of Lisbon was agreed on was welcomed also in the world of sport. After the European Commission presented its reflections on the “Europeanisation” of sport in a “White Paper on Sport” in summer, the new Reform Treaty is the next important step to strengthen it. Based on the conclusions reached at the intergovernmental conference, the significance of sport is for the first time enshrined and recognised in a European treaty. The new Article 149 (1) reads: “The Union shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking account of the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function.” This ensures that due to its specific nature exceptions may apply to sport, e.g. in the field of competition law. In the same Article the Union aims at “developing the European dimension in sport by promoting fairness and openness in sporting competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sports, and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially young sportsmen and sportswomen.“ Thus the Union recognised that alongside with sports organisations and the Member States it has a special responsibility for sport and our athletes. ■
With “Environment on the ball” towards a sustainable EURO 2008
EURO 2008 should not only become a “sustainable” sports and economic event but set new standards also in terms of environmental sustainability. To this end, the campaign “Environment on the ball” organised by the Ministry of Health together with “2008 – Austria on the ball“, a programme promoting sports associations, municipal utilities and the tourist sector has been launched. Under the label “Environment on the ball”, the environmental objectives of the sustainability concept presented in June and the Sustainability Charter for UEFA EURO 2008 are realised. In concrete terms, the environmental impact of the Football World Championship 2008 is to be reduced to a minimum and/or to be compensated for. The support mechanisms of “Environment on the ball“ subsidises consultancy and investment expenses related to environmental and climate protection measures taken by municipal institutions, sports associations and tourist enterprises in the framework of EURO 2008. Moreover, all four EURO stadiums in Vienna, Klagenfurt, Innsbruck and Salzburg will be certified in conformity with the Environmental Management System (EMAS) before the opening game. At the World Cup 2006 in Germany only Allianz Arena in Munich and Frankenstadion in Nuremberg qualified for certification. ■
Europe-wide week of action against racism in sport
Doping, violence and racism are the three great threats facing sport. The national match of Austria against Côte d'Ivoire was devoted to the combat against racism and ushered in the Europe-wide week of action of the network “FARE – Football against Racism in Europe“, coordinated by the Austrian Fair Play Initiative at the Vienna Institute for Development and Cooperation. The so far largest campaign against racism in football takes place from 17 to 30 October 2007 with more than 700 actions in 38 countries. This vital programme was launched by the Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB) and the Austrian Federal Football League as well as the Fair Play Initiative. The Federal Chancellery supports this anti-racism programme in the framework of the UEFA EURO 2008 with a total of 300,000 euros. The combat against racism will remain an import concern beyond that. The Federal Chancellery will therefore continue these activities also after EURO 2008 to take advantage of the experience gained for the Austrian federal league. ■