“With Courage and Confidence”

Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen addresses the nation in his New Year’s Speech 2020

Honoring an annual tradition, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen addressed the nation on January 1, 2020. We translated the president’s speech for everybody living in Austria who may not fully understand it in its German original, as it is addressed to all of us.

The original speech can be found on the president’s website, a video of Van der Bellen holding the speech is embedded on the bottom of this page.

What was

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by.

And what a year it was! An unusual, a challenging, a surprising one.

For me, in view of all the unforeseeable events and upheavals that we have encountered again during this year, one thing in particular has become clear:

How important it is to maintain composure, courage and confidence, even in what appears to be the greatest confusion.

For it is precisely when we do not know what tomorrow will bring, that there is a great danger of overreacting, of giving up and simply letting things happen. But the trick is to focus on the stars, where some only see the darkness of night.

And to know: They are the harbingers of the coming day.

We are not alone. We have a bright fixed star that gives us orientation and guidance: Our federal constitution. And we have each other.

What we have achieved

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

We got through the past year with courage and confidence.

Things, even positive ones, have happened that many previously thought impossible.

We have seen the first female chancellor of the Republic. The previous week we saw a week (!) with two different chancellors. We have also elected a new parliament, and I am confident that the circle will close in the foreseeable future:

We will soon have a new federal government dedicated to the tasks at hand.

When we will look back at these times in later days, we should remember that it was once again our courage and confidence that got us further. They are components of what is Austrian in the best sense.

What awaits us

But after looking back, we should also look forward again.

Because before us as a society, before us as Austria, as Europe, yes, before us as humanity, great tasks lie ahead.

We are all experiencing the changes in the global climate. Many of us were confronted with natural disasters last year. Even here in Austria. We feel the changes in our daily lives. We see this almost every day.

The climate crisis is accompanied by other major challenges: How will we work in the future? What answers do we in Austria have for digitization? How should our economy develop?  How do we deal with migration? And what are we doing to strengthen women’s rights? Have we given sufficient thought to tackling the necessary issues in education? What reforms are needed in the health care and social systems to guarantee social security and social cohesion in the future?

How do we uphold the values that have made Europe great and successful, even in times of populism and simplistic messages?

How do we safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms for future generations?

What we can do

Some people may say, “This is all too complex. What can I, as little Hansl, change about such big things. And what can a small country like Austria do in the face of changes on a global scale?”

And there’s something to that…

The danger is great to simply resign and let things happen.

But look:

The trick is to focus on the stars where some only see the dark night.

And when we do that, we suddenly realize that there are many, many people who are committed to our future and believe that there can be sustainable ecological change.

…That many helpful technological developments already exist. They will be part of the solution, to benefit people and ensure economic success for us all.

Many children and young people in particular are committing their energy and strength in the service of our common future. They are courageously taking their future into their own hands. I’m grateful for this!

When we sharpen our eyes to see the positive, we notice that we as a country are not alone and isolated in the world. We are part of our common European Union.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you:

Today, on January 1, 2020, our country has been a member of the European Union for a quarter of a century.

Together instead of alone! That was the motto when Austria joined the EU. And it applies today in exactly the same way!

In world politics, we are not capable of representing our Austrian interests on our own. Neither in environmental and economic policy, nor in foreign or security policy can Austria make itself heard in an effective way without the EU.

What we need to do

I would like to see this kind of constructive approach from our future Federal Government.

It will need it to find answers to the pressing questions of our time. Together with the other parties elected to Parliament.

We will get it right. With courage and confidence! I wish you all a happy New Year!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let us sharpen our eyes toward the positive. Then we will see that it is actually not such a big leap that we have to take. We just have to promote and strengthen all the things that are already good.

We simply continue along this path step by step. We will get it right. With courage and confidence!

I wish you all a Happy New Year!




Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub

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