Europa Haus

News Brief: Nov. 2009

A “House of the European Union” was formally inaugurated in Vienna Oct. 16 by EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, the ninth such building to be opened in capital cities across Europe. The glass and steel design at the site of the former Austrian Trade Union building at Wipplingerstraße 35 is intended as “a place of transparency,” open to all citizens.

“Europe is now visible in Vienna,” Mayor Michael Häupl told a gathering that also included EU Parliamentary President Jerzy Buzek, former Chancellor Franz Vranitzky and Austria’s current and former foreign ministers. Notably absent was Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, whose office said he was “not available” for the event. Mr. Faymann’s nonattendance at the opening, considered by many to be a pivotal moment in Austria’s evolution within the EU, fueled rumors as to why he would not support the inauguration of this new “European Public Space” – including possible pressure from Kronenzeitung publisher Hans Dichand.

Filling in for the chancellor, Austrian President Heinz Fischer said he felt “honored to be there,” pointing out, with a nod to Vice Chancellor Josef Pröll, that he was “pleased that the federal government was in attendance.”

The event followed the christenings of similar buildings in Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, Stockholm and Tallinn. Leaders hope the House of the European Union will help reduce the growing euro-skepticism among Austrians that has led to the gains of opposition parties in the EU parliament elections earlier this year.

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