The Rooster in Brussels or Austria’s Twitter ‘Evolution’

31 10 2009

Cremer_Hahn_28102009 Photo: Students protesting in the streets of Vienna, Oct. 29. Photo Credit: Cremer / Der Standard.

“I feel already well-equipped, and speaking English daily will hopefully not cause me to forget German,” Johannes Hahn – the last name Hahn translated into English means rooster or cock – replied confidently in his first public interview with the daily Der Standard of Oct. 28, when asked about his English language knowledge after his surprise nomination as Austria’s EU Commissioner. The current Federal Minister for Science and Research, in office since January 2007, will be Austria’s most influential European politician as part of Emanuel Barroso’s second European Commission.

With the unanimous decision by the Austrian government of Oct. 27 lunchtime, the show-down between the two coalition partners – Werner Faymann’s Social democrats and Josef Pröll’s Conservative ÖVP – eventually found an abupt end. The contest of nomination was mere on the surface, though, as Faymann declared already months ago that his party – though strongest in the Austrian Parliament – would not nominate a commissioner, but played a risky tactical game of which Conservative nominee they would support.
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EP Elections: ‘Where Do You Go?’

7 06 2009

I admit: I have cast my vote in the elections to the European Parliament at about 10.40 am this morning. So, I am one of about 35 to 40 percent of the Austrian electorate – my estimation – that by the end of the day will have cast their vote for the 17 Austrian seats in the European Parliament. In 2004, 42.5% went to the polls.

There were a few novelties for me: For the first time, I made my way to the polling station without any idea who I am going to vote. As resident of Vienna’s most-populated district Favoriten, it is a five-minute walk to the primary school at Keplerplatz, right at the administrative center of Vienna’s 10th district, just off the underground station of the same name and the pedestrian Favoritenstrasse.

While attentatively walking through the streets at a humid but cloudy Sunday morning, I recall No Mercy’s 1996-hit ‘Where Do You Go?’ Indeed, where is Europe heading, I wonder.
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End of an Era – The passing of two politicians who shaped late 20th century Austria

15 11 2008
Helmut Zilk and Thomas Klestil

Helmut Zilk and Thomas Klestil

Photo: Helmut Zilk (left) and Austrian President Thomas Klestil. Photo Credit: Österr. Bundesheer

Far right leader Jörg Haider’s sudden and tragic death in the early hours of his mother’s 90th birthday celebration, mirrored his political life. The Carinthian regional governor was a whirlwind, a controversial and charismatic populist, who successfully dominated Austrian domestic and international politics for over two decades.

Less than two weeks later, Austria mourned yet another political firecracker: Helmut Zilk, former Social Democratic Mayor of Vienna (1984 – 1994) died peacefully in his sleep Oct. 24th. at the age of 82. Zilk, although nominally retired, was still was actively involved in Austrian politics until a few years ago, and certainly willingly offered criticism on almost anything to do with the SPÖ.

His reach beyond party politics brought him respect from political opponents. Among those was Erhard Busek, Zilk’s political adversary, who called him a “Streithansl (squabbler) but also a man with a sense for reconciliation.” Read the rest of this entry »





EURO2008 City Scenes: How Many Guests Expected?

4 06 2008

Last Sunday, when traveling on the underground U1 towards Leopoldau, I happen to sit next to a young Viennese family – a couple in their mid-30s and their son of about 10 years of age. I was reading the weekend edition of Der Standard, and paid no attention to their conversation.

However, when reaching the stop Praterstern, the conversation inevitable turned to football and the upcoming European Championships. Last but not least, at Praterstern, the U1 meets the newly extended underground line U2, which goes right up to Ernst-Happel-Stadium, where on June 29, the decision on the new European Champion will be decided. I was not left with any choice: I stopped reading my paper and followed the arguments. Read the rest of this entry »





“Cool Guy” Nick Hornby in Vienna

26 11 2007

Slideshow: Some impressions from the Gala for Nick Hornby at the Rathaus in Vienna, November 2007. Copyright: Matthias Wurz

“We are proud to devote the City Hall to literature,” declared Councilor for Cultural Affairs, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny to packed audience at the Buchwoche (Book Week) on Nov. 18, 2007. Nick Hornby, the author of Fever Pitch (1992) – his first novel landed him a huge success – was celebrated like a pop star in Vienna.

The selection of this year’s title for Eine Stadt. Ein Buch, therefore, was a calculated marketing event by Mayor Michael Häupl and the publisher Echo, as it tells the author’s life story from the perspective of – in Hornby’s words –“significant football events.”

In 2008, Vienna co-hosts the European Football Championship EURO 2008, and therefore it was no surprise to find Hornby’s book distributed this year. 100,000 copies were given away for free to Viennese readers. Previous writers included Toni Morrison, Frederic Morton and Imre Kertesz.

N.B.: For recent scenes of Vienna during the EURO 2008, see my other entries here in this blog!

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