Whatever Happened To The U5?
The Vienna subway network is fast, safe, and clean – but something has been missing. The lines are U1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 – but no U5. Now that transport is incorporated into City Councilor Ulli Sima’s infrastructure portfolio (and after years of party infighting), detailed route planning for the U5 is moving ahead in February. There will be a new line running from Karlsplatz via the general -hospital (AKH) and up to Elterleinplatz, in the 17th district.
Naturally no major project comes to pass without lively criticism, but City Councillor Renate Brauner had a killer argument ready: The €950 million project is estimated to create 16,000 new jobs. Construction starts in 2018, so you can get set to ride the turquoise line in 2023.
Fun For All – The Opernball
The annual Opera Ball (at the Wiener Staatsoper) is the grandest of all: For the Good and the Tacky who get to attend, and for all of us who binge watch at home. The tabloids cover publicity hound Richard Lugner and his celebrity guest (this year actress Brooke Shields). Part of the fun is watching how dexterously the society ladies and the ORF camera teams manage to avoid any contact with “Mörtel” Lugner & Co. But for anyone with a soft spot for bygone times (not gone here, of course) it is a charming throwback to an age of elegance, good manners and innocent fun.
Presidential bid: Four No Trump
There is another presidential campaign under way right here in Austria. Expect daily twists and turns through February as polling day April 24 approaches. Eight candidates are registered, but only four show up on the Gallup radar: green academic Alexander Van der Bellen (pictured), party neutral retired judge Irmgard Griss, trades union veteran Rudolf Hundstorfer from the (socialist) SPÖ and articulate political pit bull Andreas Kohl from the (conservative) ÖVP. The winner is the first candidate with over 50%, which will almost certainly mean a run-off between the two top vote-getters. Smart money expects the green academic and the trade union warhorse to face off. Make your bids.
Closing Down Schengen
Austria´s Chancellor Werner Faymann broke faith with Angela Merkel´s “Willkommens-kultur” on Jan. 16th. Austria had been resolutely resisting pressure to agree on an -refugee Obergrenze (upper limit). In an interview with the tabloid Österreich he did an about-face: “We are temporarily suspending Schengen”, (the agreement for borderless travel in the EU.) He also indicated there would be a limit, set a day later by Interior Minister Mikl-Leitner, at 37,500. Berlin was not amused, but Bavaria applauded. Here at home, the junior coalition partner (ÖVP) felt vindicated, but the left wing of his own party predictably erupted . Commentators questioned the feasibility of implementing a limit within the Geneva Convention. This is not the last we’ll be hearing of this.