Translated by Binu Starnegg

President Alexander Van der Bellen addressed the current political situation in a speech on Tuesday. During this political rollercoaster, he asked Austrians not to lose faith in the democratic process and apologized for the impression the last few days have left. “That is not us, Austria is not like that” (So sind wir nicht! So ist Österreich einfach nicht!). He appealed to all parties to take their responsibilities seriously and went on to emphasize that “now is not yet the time for campaign speeches” (Jetzt ist noch nicht die Zeit der Wahlkampfreden). First, Austria has to rebuild its image, which can only be done together. Politicians should put the nation first, and not short-term gains for their party. He asked that people not turn their back on politics, and that we should “have a little courage and confidence, we will get out of this” (Nur Mut und etwas Zuversicht – wir kriegen das schon hin).  

Translated transcript

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,

We are experiencing eventful hours in our republic. Politics have rarely been discussed so intensly and emotionally. At home, at school, at work, with colleagues. “My God, that’s all terrible,” or “I just don’t understand what’s going on now,” that’s what many people are saying…

This is precisely why I am addressing you directly today, dear Austrians! Since we all saw those disturbing videos on Friday evening, a lot has happened politically. There have been resignations, countless discussions, and finally, the Chancellor proposed the dismissal of the Minister of the Interior. As a result, a number of ministers have resigned.

In accordance with our constitution, I commissioned a search for experts for the transitional phase. What we haven’t had time for is processing why these disturbing images affect us so much. We have all seen images that crossed moral lines. Images of disrespect, breach of trust and political degradation. The damage caused cannot yet be estimated. Especially because the first reaction of many is: “Typical!” or “They’re all the same anyway.”

I understand that the initial shock leads one to react in such a way. But I ask you to take a closer look. A politician is elected to serve his country. In order to do that well, he or she must be able to distinguish between what is decent and what is indecent, what is corrupt and what is correct, what is appropriate and what is not. A good role model shows decency not only when there are cameras in the room, but also acts decently from inner conviction. In this sense, we should all strive to be role models.

I think most politicians in this country do that. I am convinced that nobody goes into politics to violate the aforementioned boundaries. Politicians want to improve life in society and usually sacrifice much for this goal – in private life and in other areas. And sometimes, they lose their way. And cross lines, hurt people, damage trust.

And on that note, I apologize for the impression that politics has just left us with. We are not like that! Austria is simply not like that! Now we all have to prove that together. We politicians will have a very special role to play in this endeavour.

Our image is not only important when we are abroad. Above all, it is vital for our export economy and for persuading companies to relocate to Austria. And whether many tourists choose to visit our country. This is not a trivial matter. This is about our economic future and the jobs of tens of thousands of people. And you don’t play with this responsibility.

Ladies and gentlemen,

restoring Austria’s image in Europe and the world, rebuilding trust – all this will only work if we do it together.

I would like to state clearly to all those involved that this is not yet the time for campaign speeches. I appeal to everyone bearing responsibility in this country to also bear political responsibility for this country. Do not think about what you can do for your party in the short term, but think about what you can do for Austria. Do not ask: will it help me in the election? Ask: Does it help Austria? Will it help us internally and strengthen our credibility in the world?

Dear Austrians,

I beg you, do not turn away from politics in disgust. Think, participate in discussions. And vote on Sunday!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Have courage and a little confidence – we’ll manage. We’ve done it in the past. That’s something typically Austrian.

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On May 22, a speech on the appointment and inauguration of a transitional government

On Wednesday, President Van der Bellen swore in a transitional cabinet and vice chancellor and reminded them that they bear responsibility for positive developments in Austria. He emphasized that parliamentary democracy is based on gaining majorities and protecting minorities; on mutual trust and the will to compromise; on cooperation, diligence and respect. A sophisticated democracy is not “implementation of your own policies and programs” (Gelebte und reife Demokratie, glaube ich, ist nicht das absolute Durchsetzung von eigenen Positionen und Programmen). He then stated that “Europe is the best idea we ever had,” (Europa ist die beste Idee) and requested that Austria take a constructive role in the European Union.

Translated transcript

Dear Chancellor!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

A great deal has happened politically since we all saw those bizarre videos from Ibiza on Friday evening. There have been resignations, many meetings, public statements from many sides and, finally, the Chancellor requested the dismissal of the Minister of the Interior. As a result, FPÖ all ministers have resigned.

In accordance with our constitution, I have therefore commissioned or rather, requested that the Chancellor seek experts for the transition phase until the general elections and the formation of a new Federal Government, in order to ensure the continuation of official functions.

The Chancellor then sent me a corresponding proposal. As a result, I had a discussion with all of today’s appointees and will now swear them in immediately.

Ladies and gentlemen.

You now bear a significant share of responsibility for the positive development of our home country, Austria. I wish you all, from the bottom of my heart, a steady hand, many achievments and a bit of luck – which is also part of it – and much success in this important task!

Allow me, considering the unusual situation this transitional government will function in, to share three essential thoughts with you.

First: What is the basis of our parliamentary democracy?

Seeking and establishing majorities while protecting minorities. This requires ongoing dialogue, rapprochement, sustained trust building and, last but not least, a willingness to compromise for the common good.

I believe that a vibrant and mature democracy is not the absolute implementation of one’s own policies and programs. Politics is also a craft and demands conscientiousness and respect for others.

Secondly, aside from building trust, we cannot forget the great, burning challenges of our time. The climate crisis, which not only concerns our young people. We are the generation that can still do the right thing, do what is necessary together.

The opportunities and risks of digitization. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could be potentially affected in Austria. Socio-politically and economically, new ideas and wise solutions will be needed.

Thirdly, and this is particularly important to me, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to emphasize Europe. Europe is the best idea we’ve ever had. And I mean that seriously. I would ask you not to forget that, and to contribute to Austria playing a constructive role in the European Union, actively contributing to undoubtedly necessary reforms and change.

Important decisions are imminent after the European elections!

  • Personnel decisions of all kinds,
  • the challenges of the Brexit must be mastered,
  • geopolitical issues need to be resolved,
  • a multiannual financial framework for the European Union, and
  • far-reaching international economic relations,

that massively affect Europe and Austria must be negotiated. All this requires a strong European Union with the capacity to act. And Austrian participation.

Ladies and gentlemen!

I now come to the dismissal of the former members of the Federal Government and the appointment and swearing in of the future members of the Federal Government.

(For the sake of simplicity, I omit all titles.)

Per your suggestion, Chancellor, I shall dismiss the Minister of the Interior, Herbert Kickl, pursuant to Article 70, paragraph 1 of the Constitution.

Furthermore, at their own request and pursuant to Article 74(3) of the Constitution, I shall dismiss the Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Public Service and Sport, Mr. Heinz-Christian Strache; the Minister for Labor, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection, Ms. Beate Hartinger-Klein; the Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Mr. Norbert Hofer; the Minister of Defence, Mr. Mario Kunasek and, pursuant to Article 74(3) in conjunction with Article 78(2), the State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Hubert Fuchs, from office.

Concurrently, in accordance with Article 70(1) of the Constitution, I appoint (for the sake of simplicity, I shall omit all titles here as well):

Minister Hartwig Löger as Vice-Chancellor, Mr Eckart Ratz as Minister of the Interior, Mr Walter Pöltner as Minister for Labor, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection, Mr Johann Luif as Minister of Defence and Valerie Hackl as Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology. Finally, pursuant to Article 77(4) of the Federal Constitution Act, I entrust Minister Juliane Bogner-Strauß with the management of the Ministry of Public Service and Sport.

I wish you all the best for the performance of all your duties in the service of the Republic and its people. I would like to thank all those who are leaving office today for their work.

The members of the Federal Government shall be sworn in by the President before taking office. I therefore ask you to make the following vow and to confirm it with a handshake and your signature:

“I swear that I will faithfully observe the Constitution and all the laws of the Republic and fulfill my duty to the best of my knowledge and conscience.”

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