Austria’s Ambassador Martin Eichtinger says this centenary year is one to reflect on his country’s history at the heart of Europe, and look forward to heading the EU Presidency in July
For Austria, 2018 is a year of remembrance and reflection as we celebrate a series of anniversaries, including the centenary of the Republic of Austria, that are linked to Europe’s history and that have shaped today’s Austria: a prosperous and responsible democracy, a committed member of the EU and a reliable partner in the international community. In 2018, we will also continue our engagement for Europe: after having successfully completed our 2017 Chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), we will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of the year.
- Five key dates on Austria’s path towards a democracy that is fully committed to its European and international responsibilities:
1848 – March Revolution: 13 March marks the beginning of a set of revolutions that took place in the Austrian Empire until November 1849. The events of 1848 were the product of mounting social and political tensions after the Congress of Vienna of 1815 and a discontent with the conservative, restorationist policy of Austrian State Chancellor Prince Metternich. The revolution of 1848 led to the overthrow of Metternich, who had to flee to London, and paved the way for freedom of the press, a new constitution and the end of the feudal state.
1918 – First Republic of Austria: After the catastrophic events of World War I and the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into nation-states, the Republic of Austria was proclaimed on 12 November 1918. On the same day, the women’s suffrage was adopted, which was an important step towards gender equality in Austria. From its very outset, the young Republic was marked by significant political and economic difficulties. For the small remaining entity that was once a great European power, it was difficult to find a sense of identity.
1938 – ‘Anschluss,’ the annexation of Austria: the political polarisation in the First Republic and a four-day civil war in 1934, which completely divided the country, finally led to the ‘Anschluss,’ the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany on 13 March 1938, and the tragic events of the 1938 November Pogroms of Jews in Austria. The atrocities that followed during World War II gave rise to Austria’s historical and enduring responsibility to never forget the Holocaust and to work tirelessly to combat antisemitism and discrimination.
1948/58 – Human Rights: In 2018, we will also commemorate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on 10 December 1948 and the 60th anniversary of Austria’s ratification of the European Convention of Human Rights on 3 September 1958. Austria has a long-standing record of active engagement for the promotion and protection of human rights. It has been member of the UN Human Rights Council from 2011-14 and is again candidate for the 2019-21 term.
The Year of Remembrance 2018 will also give us the opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved 100 years after the foundation of the First Republic and to look towards Europe’s future.
- From past events to future responsibilities: looking towards our 2018 EU Presidency:
Today, Austria is a stable democracy and one of the richest and safest countries in the world. It is a reliable partner in the international community of states as well as within the EU. Austria values its role as a place of dialogue and a bridge-builder. This is highlighted by Vienna being host to some 40 international organisations, as well as the UN, and by our international commitment of over 1,000 troops in international peace-keeping operations.
Since 1995, Austria has formed an integral part of the EU. Both citizens and businesses have benefited enormously from EU membership. Over 75 per cent of Austrian citizens favour Austria’s membership in the European Union. Some 70 per cent of Austria’s foreign trade is with EU member states and since our EU accession, exports have tripled and some 13,000 new jobs per year have been created.
The recently formed Government of Austria has clearly stated that it will be pro-European and actively engaged in the project of European integration. Austria will take responsibility for Europe when it, on 1 July 2018, takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the third time after 1998 and 2006. We will use our chairmanship to create new momentum in reforming the EU, as our European project will need a re-launch, particularly after the UK’s exit. For a positive change in Europe, the EU needs to become stronger in big issues such as foreign, security and defence policies or in protecting Europe’s external borders. And the EU needs to step back from areas where its member states or regions can decide more effectively as they are closer to its citizens.
Our EU presidency will also see the final stage of negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It will be our ambition to contribute to a viable solution for all EU Member States and for the UK, and to pave the way for a future relationship that reflects our common European culture, values and history.
III. How to participate in the Commemorative Year 2018 in Austria or in the UK
Throughout the year more than 200 commemorative events, historic exhibitions, scientific symposia, youth contests and project collaborations with universities, schools and educational institutions will take place around Austria. The key event of the Commemorative Year 2018 will be an official ceremony at the Vienna State Opera on 12 November 2018, preceded by the opening of the Austrian Museum of Contemporary History (Haus der Geschichte Österreich) at Vienna’s Imperial Palace. Another highlight is the special exhibition ‘100 Years Republic of Austria 1918-2018’ at the Lower Austria Museum (Museum Niederösterreich), which focuses on the time between the two World Wars, from the founding of the First Republic in 1918 to the ‘Anschluss’ in 1938.
Numerous events will also be dedicated to Austrian artists and scholars, who made major contributions to the world of arts, literature and music, among them Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, Otto Wagner and Koloman Moser, who all died in 1918 or Ludwig Wittgenstein, who finished his world-renowned philosophical work Tractatus logico-philosophicus in the same year. These are just some of the events which are described more extensively on the website of the Advisory Council for the Commemorative Year 2018, chaired by former Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer: www.oesterreich100.at
In the UK, the Austrian Embassy and the Austrian Cultural Forum, together with universities, museums and the Jewish Community, are organising events to celebrate the centenary of Austria, but also to honor and remember Austrians who were forced to leave Austria and go into exile here in the UK. And we are also looking forward to the Klimt/Schiele exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts opening in autumn 2018.
Whether in the UK or Austria, please join us to celebrate 2018!