A quick-and-dirty synopsis of last month’s headlines in Vienna
Security Increase After Attempted Terror Attack
An 18-year-old Austrian was arrested in his apartment for allegedly planning to -carry out an attack on the Viennese U-Bahn (subway). Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka claimed that the man was “under observation for several days due to decisive leads from foreign intelligence services” and that “there were signs that the suspect may have ties to Islamic extremists.” Austrian authorities have increased the number of patrol officers and have asked the public to remain alert in crowded places.
Need to know: If you see something, say something.
When it happened: January 20, 2017
Who it affects: Viennese residents
What others said: “There will be many investigations, which will take some time.” –Safety Director, Konrad Kogler
Taking the stage to the tune of Elvis’ A Little Less Conversation, Austrian center-left Chancellor Christian Kern presented “Plan A for Austria,” a 146-page “program for prosperity, security and good spirit” (gute Laune). This is his plan to implement the “New Deal” announced at the beginning of his term. With the goal of creating 200,000 new jobs by 2020, one strong focus will be on the labor market: Kern suggests, among other things, lobbying Brussels in order to employ Austrians before other EU citizens in industries with high unemployment rates.
Need to know: The speech was well received by entrepreneurs, big -business and the media. Whether the policies will follow remains to be seen.
When it happened: January 11, 2017
Who it affects: Austria’s Social Democratic Party and anyone living, working or doing business in Austria.
What others said: “It was a speech by the General Manager of the Austrian Republic.” –Political consultant and ex-SPÖ chancellor spokesperson, Jo Kalina
Van der Bellen Sworn in as President
Alexander – a.k.a. Sasha, a.k.a. The Professor – Van der Bellen was sworn in as President of the -Republic of Austria on January 26, 2017. At 72, Van der Bellen won the race against right-wing populist Norbert Hofer after a failed runoff vote. An investigation had revealed irregularities regarding vote counting in -several constituencies. The economics professor will be Europe’s first head of state with close Green Party ties.
Need to know: After three elections and more campaiging than Austria has seen since WWII, Van der Bellen will finally become president.
When it happened: January 26, 2017
Who is affects: Austrians, foreign heads of state (for visits), the European community
What he said: “I believe, I can do this.” –President Alexander Van der Bellen
Pröll’s Time to Go
Lower Austria’s Governor Erwin Pröll announced that he will step down after 25 years as head of Austria’s biggest federal province. His successor Johanna Mikl-Leitner will take his place at the regional party’s conference on March 25. Allegations by the Austrian weekly Falter connect Pröll’s surprising farewell to politics with recent questions about his private non-profit foundation. Pröll refers to his foundation as “clearly charitable” and claims to have been thinking about his departure from politics for some time.
Need to know: Landesfürst Pröll (the “Duke of Lower Austria”) is leaving office with numerous rumors in tow. Johanna Mikl-Leintner (a.k.a. Hanni) will take his place.
When it happened: January 10, 2017
Who it affects: Lower Austrians, the Austrian Federal Government, all those doing business in Lower Austria.
What others said: “The lower Austrian brand can not be messed with” –Interior Minister, Wolfgang Sobotka