Vienna Greens slash ÖVP festival’s budget

The Viennese People’s Party (ÖVP) is infuriated after the city government decided to slash the budget of a cultural event it has been hosting for years.

The Stadtfest is a tradition-rich series of concerts, performances and readings taking place in the city centre of Vienna. It is organised by the ÖVP. The conservative party formed a coalition in the city with the Social Democrats (SPÖ) between 1996 and 2001. Apart from this legislative period, the party has always been in opposition to the SPÖ in Vienna. Mayor Michael Häupl’s SPÖ teamed up with the Greens after all factions except the Freedom Party (FPÖ) suffered losses in the city election of October 2010.

Now the Greens announced that the city of Vienna would subsidise next year’s Stadtfest with around 450,000 Euros, half the amount the event used to receive each year. The Viennese ÖVP admitted it was concerned and surprised over the news, but also expressed confidence that the summertime event would not be affected regarding the number and quality of performances it would feature.

The Viennese department of the Greens controversially also revealed that a new event called Wienwoche would take place for the first time in autumn of next year. The Wienwoche will be organised by the Greens, it was announced yesterday (Weds). The party explained the event would not just feature light entertainment but also confront its visitors with problems of the coexistence of people in a city. Little more information was revealed about the upcoming event’s contents. The left-wing party refused to disclose where the Wienwoche would take place. It is understood that the event could be attended free of charge as the Stadtfest and the Donauinselfest.

The Donauinselfest takes place on Vienna’s Donauinsel or Danube Island, a manmade dam which has become a popular recreation area used by hundreds of thousands a year to run, cycle and relax. The three-day event, which is usually staged in June, is organised by the city of Vienna and the SPÖ. The Social Democrats have been accused of exploiting the event for their own purposes with various promotion campaigns supported with city funds. Polls have shown that most visitors of the event – which attracts around three million people each year – are unsure of who organises it. Popular Austrian acts like STS and Reinhard Fendrich as well as international stars such as HIM and Billy Idol performed at the Donauinselfest in recent years.

The Viennese SPÖ-ÖVP administration announced yesterday the city of Vienna would cut its subsidies for the Donauinselfest by around 100,000 Euros. It used to support the event with almost 1.5 million Euros per year. Many trade sector entrepreneurs and hotel bosses appreciate the event due to the boost their businesses receive.

The SPÖ and organisers of the Donauinselfest said yesterday next year’s edition of the music event would take place from 22 to 24 June when Viennese schoolchildren start their summer holidays. Safety issues would once more play an important role in staging the festival next year, they stressed, explaining that surveillance cameras will monitor the movements of people wandering from one stage to another. These measures should avoid mass panics and other incidents. Donauinselfest managers claimed surveys held last year showed that eight in 10 visitors were pleased with what the festival had to offer.

The Viennese government coalition of Social Democrats and Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou’s Green Party got through its first year without major internal conflicts while the ÖVP is in turmoil. Gabriele Tamandl agreed to take over as party leader until a new head is found after Christine Marek resigned. Marek was persuaded to front the ÖVP’s election campaign last year. She reportedly preferred to remain state secretary for families but eventually agreed. The Viennese ÖVP’s campaign ended in a fiasco as the party won less than 14 per cent of the vote. It was the ÖVP’s worst ever result in post-war Vienna. Analysts said the party failed to present a clear concept and speak with one voice as it ran a tough anti-crime campaign while trying to attract open-minded, young voters at the same time.

Häupl is expected to retire as mayor and leader of the Viennese branch of the SPÖ ahead of the next city election. Many commentators were surprised that his faction decided to form a coalition with the Greens instead of cooperating with the ÖVP as the federal SPÖ has done many times since the end of World War Two (WWII).

Political scientists described the new coalition as Häupl’s final big endeavour. Asked why he opted for the Greens instead of the conservative ÖVP, the mayor said: “I rather argue with the Greens about a street or another than being at loggerheads with the ÖVP about education issues all the time.”

An increase of cycling traffic, higher usage of public transport and more tolerance among ethnical and religious groups are some points the current coalition has on its agenda.