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Michael Häupl interviewed
by an international audience

City Mayors invited those who participated in World Mayor 2005 to put questions to Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl. The Mayor finished sixth out of 65 finalists in World Mayor 2005. From the many questions received, a representative selection was forwarded to the Mayor. Below, he replies in detail, as well as with candour and thoughtfulness.

Questions & Answers
From Dr Ladislav B., Bratislava
The capital cities of Austria and the Slovak Republic are near neighbours. Do you think Vienna and Bratislava could work closer together for the benefit of Austrians and Slovaks in a united Europe?

Michael Häupl replies: Vienna and Bratislava have already been working together intensively at several levels. Apart from cooperation in economic, cultural and social matters, we aim to upgrade infrastructure while simultaneously safeguarding the valuable green space areas between both European capitals. The resulting synergies also strengthen the Central European Region Centrope. And the first results are promising: as of spring 2006 there will be a speedboat connection between the two city centres.

From Andreas K., Vienna
Now that the Social Democrats have been re-elected in Vienna, what are your plans to solve the problem of unemployed young people?

Michael Häupl replies: Although labour-market issues are legally part of the federal government’s agenda, the City of Vienna equally takes action in this field. In 2005, 52 million euros were spent on labour-market political measures, 11 of which are specifically dedicated to the target-group of young people, for whom the City of Vienna takes special measures in many areas.

In 2005 the “Landesforum für Jugendausbildung” (Regional Forum for Youth Education) was established. Within this Forum all the regional players develop joint programmes. The most successful of these programmes is the “Personalfinder” (personnel finder), which has already been launched and will be extended further. Specially trained staff members call on companies and assess their exact needs. Then they search for the persons with the required skills among unemployed people to find the right matches. Thanks to Personalfinder, over 1,000 unemployed – mostly young – people have found a new job within a year.

In the autumn and winter of 2005, Vienna was furthermore able to offer a guarantee for apprentices: every young person who wanted an apprenticeship training position obtained one. And for those who did not a “safety net” of 3,500 apprenticeships financed by the public authorities was made available.

The City of Vienna serves as an example itself: currently 1,200 young people are being trained in municipal institutions. This is by far the highest share of apprenticeships in the whole of Austria.

From Dr Lieselotte T.-B., Vienna
Do you believe it is possible for all the people of Vienna, with their different social, cultural and religious backgrounds, to live together in peace and harmony? What do you think you could do to achieve this goal?

Michael Häupl replies: I am deeply convinced that people of different cultural and religious backgrounds can live together peacefully – as the history of many centuries in Vienna proves. Integrative forces are extraordinarily strong in this city; take a look at the Vienna phone directory to find out how many “true Viennese” have a Czech or Slovak name, for instance. Problems only appear when the social differences are too great. Problems grow against a background of poverty and fear. I have never heard of “problems” with French diplomats or Arab OPEC staff. We therefore aim to support social cohesion in our society, and with our dense social network we make sure that no one – whether he or she is Viennese or a migrant – ends up on the street in Vienna. Our excellent educational system offers equal chances to all children at the beginning of their school careers. And anyone in need of top medicine in Vienna receives the best medical care, regardless of income. I believe that our social justice is the basis for the relative worry-free atmosphere in Vienna and peaceful coexistence.

As regards the coexistence of religions, I am personally truly proud of the excellent pro-dialogue climate in Vienna between the Catholic Church, the Muslim Community and the Jewish Religious Community. After the terrible terrorist attacks against the New York World Trade Centre, Vienna was the only city whose religious communities drew up a joint text strongly condemning these inhuman terrorist acts.

From Chris-Maria B., Vienna
In some primary school classes in Vienna, immigrant children make up more than 80 per cent of classes. What do you say to parents of ‘Austrian’ children who believe that their kids would receive a better education in classes with fewer or no immigrant children?

Michael Häupl replies: The fact that children have a migrant background or a non-Austrian passport does not automatically say anything about their German language proficiency. For us it is important to provide the necessary teachers and class materials wherever there is a need and wherever there are deficits. This does not only apply to languages but also to the special educational measures to promote the interests of disabled children. We are currently working on an early-promotion programme for kindergarten children, which is part of our efforts to systematically promote the welfare of all children instead of selecting the best. Thus we further encourage language education for children in Vienna.

From Hans B., Vienna
What will you do to show that the anti-foreigner remarks by Hans-Christian Strache (Editor: leader of Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party) do not represent the opinions of ordinary Viennese people?

Michael Häupl replies: The election result (Editor: Elections were held in Vienna on 23 October 2005) best proves that 85 per cent of Viennese people do not agree with the Freedom Party leader’s anti-foreigners policy. And I want to emphatically point out that the roughly 15 per cent who did vote for him in Vienna are not all racists and people who hate foreigners. I rather believe that these people are afraid, afraid to lose their jobs or simply afraid to miss out. It is therefore our task as Social Democrats and my personal task as Mayor of Vienna to show them there is no need to be afraid. We do so through job initiatives, massive investments in the economy, through additional teachers to facilitate integration or through mediators in neighbourhoods with a high percentage of foreign residents.

I honestly thank the author of this question on “Hans”-Christian Strache – since it shows that Heinz-Christian Strache will not really stay in people’s minds despite his repulsive electoral campaign.

From Curt S., Stockholm, Sweden
Do you think the surprisingly strong performance in Vienna’s recent local election of the anti-foreigner ‘Free Freedom Party’ has harmed the city’s international reputation?

Michael Häupl replies: I very much hope that it has not! I am strongly committed to keeping Vienna as open as it is today. Vienna as the seat of the UN, the OPEC and the IAEA, which has recently been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, has always had the best relations with many international organisations. Culture and science, two dominant factors in our city, are also part of the most international agendas I can think of. Every year about nine million people from all over the world visit Vienna – and we warmly welcome every single one of them. Our wonderful internationality will not be destroyed by a short-lived political shooting star. The 85 per cent of Viennese residents who actively voted against the political course of the Freedom Party is a very good beginning that is to be further extended.

From Sven K., Vienna
Will you accept a government post should your party, the Social Democrats, win Austria’s next general election?

Michael Häupl:
I am not exaggerating, being the Mayor of Vienna is the best job in world. The answer to the question whether I would be available for a post at the federal level is definitely “no”. I love this city. And for as long as the Viennese citizens want me as their mayor I will be very glad to serve in this office.

From Steve A., New York, USA
What are your plans to promote Vienna internationally as a modern European city that does not solely have to rely on its Habsburg past to attract tourists and business?

Michael Häupl replies: Where do I begin? Vienna is a city that is very much alive. Each year we host the largest open-air film festival worldwide at the Rathausplatz (in front of the City Hall), the relatively new Museumsquartier is dedicated to Modern Art, Viennese “exports” from the DJ and electronics scene such as Kruder & Dorfmeister have attained world renown, and the Vienna Mozart Year 2006 is directed by the outstanding Peter Sellars. Vienna organises architectural competitions to promote modern architecture for schools and social housing. The Viennale film festival attracts thousands of fans every year; the Impulse dance festival or the Vienna Festival Wiener Festwochen literally animates the city. In the economic sector we successfully encourage science and research, creative industries and IT – this is certainly where the jobs for the future are. Let me just give you a small but striking example: thanks to the support offered by the City of Vienna, Anton Zeilinger, the internationally known quantum physicist and father of “beaming”, has chosen Vienna as the seat for his institute. Since then entangled particles have dashed through our sewerage system for research purposes.

Dr Michael Häupl, Mayor of Vienna

Dr Michael Häupl

Born 14 September 1949 in Altlengbach, Lower Austria
Married, two children

Education and professional career
• Academic secondary school in Krems, Austria
• PhD in biology from the University of Vienna
• Research scientist at the Vienna Museum of Natural History (1975 - 1983)

Political career
1975 – 1977
Chairman of the Austrian Association of Socialist Students (VSSTÖ)
1978 to date
Member of the Social Democratic Party Committee for the 16th district of Vienna, Ottakring
1978 – 1984
Various functions in the Young Generation (JG), the youth organisation of the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ
Elected chairman of JG Vienna and Deputy Chairman of the Federal JG Organisation co-opted to the presidium of SPÖ Vienna
1983 – 1988
Member of the Vienna City Council and Provincial Parliament
1988 – 1994
Member of the Vienna City Government as Executive City Councillor for the Environment, Recreation and Sports
1993 to date
Chairman of SPÖ Vienna
7 Nov. 1994 to date
Mayor and Governor of Vienna

Other offices Mr Häupl currently holds
• President of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns (Österr. Städtebund)
• President of the Council of European Regions and Municipalities (CEMR)