A quick-and-dirty synopsis of what everyone’s been talking about in Vienna and beyond

Trial Begins for Death of 71 Refugees

The trial against the traffickers indicted for the death of 71 refugees begins on June 21 in Hungary. In August 2015, police discovered the decomposing bodies in a parked truck in Burgenland, Austria (Metropole reported in October 2015). One day after the tragedy, the smuggling ring, led by a 30-year-old Afghan, organized a similar transport with 67 people, who only narrowly escaped death. The 11 suspects are charged with murder and membership in a criminal organization and face up to lifelong prison -sentences.

Need to know

Suspected smugglers go to trial for the suffocation of 71 refugees found in a truck parked in Austria.

What others said

Amnesty International’s Europe deputy director, Gauri van Gulik: “People dying in their dozens – whether crammed into a truck or a ship – en route to seek safety or better lives is a tragic indictment of Europe’s failures to provide alternative routes.”

Stepping Down is the New Black

© ÖVP/Jakob Glaser

So far, 2017 has seen four high-ranking Austrian politicians vacate their seats. Governors Josef Pühringer and Erwin Pröll (Austrian People’s Party ÖVP) quit after serving for decades, while the resignations of vice-chancellor and ÖVP chairman Reinhold Mitterlehner and long-time Green Party leader Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek were more unexpected. The 30-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz filled Mitterlehner’s seat in office and became the driving force behind new parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

Need to know

In recent months, key politicians including Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner have left office.

What others said

Philip Wilhelmer, journalist at daily newspaper Kurier: “Austria is certainly in the hands of the baby boomers, but they are slowly relinquishing power.”

Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures Celebrated at La Biennale

© Bildrecht Vienna 2017

One of the superstars at the 2017 Biennale in Venice is Styria’s own -Erwin Wurm with his One Minute Sculptures. His works – like a vertically positioned truck transformed into a lookout perch – require visitors to physically interact with them. His camper with cutout holes features in the New York Times “10 Best Things We Saw at the Venice Biennale.”

 

Need to know

Austrian urban sculpture artist Erwin Wurm’s performative installations at this year’s Austrian pavilion at the La Biennale earned acclaim.

What others said

Vogue sees a political message in Wurm’s interactive sculptures: “If an artist can inspire people to crouch uncomfortably against a wall-mounted chair for sixty seconds, what’s to say an artist couldn’t also inspire people to vote?”

Austrian Businesses Keep Pace with Digital Progress

A recent study gives Austrian businesses a surprisingly positive rating for digitalization. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) compared 440 Austrian and U.S. companies, concluding that at 22% “digital pioneers” and 20% “latecomers”, Austria is not too far behind the American figures. The EU commission’s 2017 digitalization index ranks Austria 10th, behind the Scandinavian countries. The BCG study also highlights the enormous discrepancy between digital pioneers and latecomers. Hannes Pichler (partner at BCG Austria) advises CEOs to adopt an open attitude towards new technologies, like apps and tablets.

Need to know

A BCG study shows that Austrian businesses keep up with technological progress better than expected.

What others said

Chancellor Christian Kern is a porponent: “Digitalization has long become reality. It fosters innovation and new jobs.”