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The Fifth Column: October 2013

The Fifth Column: October 2013

Lost Tribe of Spooks With all the spooks lurking about in Vienna, it seems possible a batch of them, a Lost Tribe, may have escaped into the wilds of the leafy 18th District. So when the U.S. Embassy suddenly closed the aerial-festooned villa at Pötzleinsdorfer Straße 126–128, it naturally raised a few eyebrows. It was […]

Integration: A Paradigm Shift

Integration: A Paradigm Shift

A hundred years ago, in 1913, there were 2.1 million people in Vienna, larger than the 1.7 who live here today – as mix of Serbs an, Poles, Turks, Hungarians, and of course, Germans, who represent the largest immigrant group in Vienna and Austria today. Austria, which stretched from Lake Constance to the Black Sea […]

The Winding Road to Transparency

The Winding Road to Transparency

At a recent gallery opening, the host turned to his companions: “Transparency is a good thing, but not always the truth. The truth is what we see.” He wasn’t speaking about politics, of course, but about art. Still the statement resonated. While the EU thinks that opening up all bank account information will be a […]

The Fifth Column: May 2013

The Fifth Column: May 2013

Zoo Story Founded as an imperial menagerie in 1752, Schönbrunn is the oldest zoo in the world, influencing fashion and even literature (Giraffen in Wien, 1828), and providing exotic emergency rations for a starving city during the First World War. After Schönbrunn was privatised in the early 1990s the zoo was radically sorted out by […]

Austrians Keep Their Secrets

Austrians Keep Their Secrets

Changing banking laws is tricky, wherever it’s done. It affects nations, businesses and citizens – in fact, everything. In Austria, the last big change was made in 1996, when it was decided that Austrian savings accounts (Sparbücher) could no longer be anonymous. By 2000, it was literally impossible to open a savings account without showing […]

Linz Music Theatre opens

The Linz Music Theatre opened on 11 April to much controversy over the cost of its construction. The project began in 2009 and cost an estimated €150 million, a large portion of which came from taxpayers. Finance Minister Maria Fekter (ÖVP) defended the spending: “Culture costs money, but lack of culture comes at a higher […]

Bankers and the Holocaust

Minister of Finance Maria Fekter (ÖVP) caused a stir when she compared the critique of bankers to the persecution of Jews during the Second World War at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Wroclaw, Poland. Rejoining a comment about the danger of rising nationalism, Fekter said that “in Europe we are now turning bankers […]

Blaming Welfare Scams

At its party conference in Saalfelden this September the ÖVP made an acrobatic move to bat away both the accusations of graft in its own ranks, and the growing calls for a wealth tax in one go: “Welfare fraud is an abuse of this country’s culture,” party head Michael Spindelegger barked. The idea has the […]

A Little Less Torture

The political struggles over immigration have entered another round with a revision of the Foreigners’ Law submitted to the Austrian Parliament Feb. 22.  After heated negotiations in the governing coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP), a compromise was reached that softened some of the worst features, but left most of the […]

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