‘Eurovision promotes peace and tolerance’

With only a day to go before the Eurovision final in Vienna, The Local caught up with Peter Huber, the Austrian ambassador to Madrid to hear his views on the world’s most prestigious singing competition.

'Eurovision promotes peace and tolerance'
Austrian Ambassador Peter Huber with Edurne at a Eurovision event in April Photo: Austrian Embassy

It may be dismissed as a kitsch joke by many but in bringing so many different nations together, Eurovision could serve as a valuable tool to the wider diplomatic community.

“In 60 years of its existence Eurovision always carried a message of peace, understanding and tolerance,” Peter Huber, the Austrian ambassador to Madrid since January 2014, told The Local.

Austria only won once before, in 1966 with Udo Jürgen’s “Merci Chérie”, but last year against all odds and to the surprise and in some cases, horror of many, Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag queen reclaimed the crown for Austria with a song entitled “Rise like a Phoenix”.

Conchita Wurst performing the winning song at Eurovision in May 2014. Photo: AFP

But with winning comes the responsibility of hosting the event the following year and it's not always straightforward.

“To host a TV event of this dimension poses various challenges, primarily for Austrian Television but also for the host city,” admits Huber. “From choosing the right location (The Wiener Stadthalle) to the various side events and the promotion of the event 'worldwide'.

But being the host country also brings advantages and rare opportunities.

“Eurovision provides Austria and the host city Vienna with a great opportunity to present themselves to the world,” Huber said.

“Austrians are known for their hospitality, they love music and will do everything to make Eurovision for the artists, delegations and all the Eurovision fans an unforgettable event.”

Winning the Eurovision crown has also brought a few perks to Austria’s diplomat representatives.

“Eurovision was new territory for Austrian diplomacy. Austrian Embassies in more than 30 countries organized Eurovision events,” explained the ambassador to Madrid.

The video clip recorded exclusively for The Local was recorded at the Austrian Embassy party

“In Madrid we presented the Spanish participant “Edurne” with her song “Amanecer” to the diplomats of the participating countries and to the international media,”

The event was attended by The Local who can confirm that Edurne performed live while guests snacked on mini wiener schnitzels and sipped Austrian wine.

“Organizing such an event is far from regular diplomatic work but with Radio Television Espanola and sponsors reaching from Vienna Products and Swarovski to Red Bull we had great partners to make it possible.

“It was a unique experience and the whole team enjoyed the challenge.”

Whether Huber has been a long standing fan of Eurovision or has just adopted an interest as a responsibilty of the job, he certainly shows an enthusiasm for it.

Asked if he had a favourite Eurovision entry this year, he reeled off a long list.

“In general the quality of the songs is very high. There are quite a few I like and that will be successful well beyond Eurovision,” he opined.

But of course after getting to know Edurne at the Austrian embassy Eurovision party, she has won a place in his heart.

“I know the Spanish song very well and have to admit that I like it a lot,” he said.

“My other personal favorites are Estonia, Belgium, Hungary, Albania, Norway and of course the 'Makemakes' from Austria.”

He later added that the Australian entry –  a one-off guest to the Eurovision event – was also a favourite of his.

But his greatest admiration is reserved for last year’s winning entry.

“I met Conchita in March in Barcelona. Conchita is not only a great artist but also an extremely intelligent and smart young person. She is a fantastic ambassador for tolerance and has also shown the world a new side of Austria.”

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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Find out what's going on in Austria on Friday with The Local's short roundup of today's news.

Travel should soon be easier thanks to the Green Passport ALEX HALADA / AFP
Travel should soon be easier thanks to the Green Passport (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

EU and Austrian green certificate for travel should be ready for June

EU countries and the EU Parliament have agreed on details of a digital Europe-wide certificate or “green passport” to give citizens proof of corona vaccinations, tests and having recovered from an infection with Covid-19.

This was announced by the Portuguese Presidency in Brussels on Thursday, and will hopefully make travel easier within the EU.The “digital green certificate” – in the form of a QR code – is to be introduced by the end of June.

‘3G Rule’: How to prove you have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid in Austria

Austrian Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger said Austria would have its certificate ready by the beginning of June, and added the fall of the entry restrictions in many countries will make “vacation in Austria” possible again, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Wrong leg amputated at Austrian clinic

The wrong leg of an 82-year-old patient was amputated at a clinic in Upper Austria, Der Standard newspaper reports. The wrong leg was marked before the operation at the Freistadt Clinic. The patient’s second leg must now also be amputated from the middle of the thigh.

The patient and his relatives were offered psychological help, the paper reports, adding the doctor who carried out the amputation is currently not on duty at her own request. 

Seven day incidence at 55

The seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 54.8. In all federal states the number is now below 100 – with Vorarlberg (94.7) and Burgenland (36.0) having the highest and lowest values ​​respectively. 

Almost all federal states in Austria now yellow or orange

Vorarlberg is the only federal state to remain “red” or acute risk according to the coronavirus traffic light commission. Burgenland and Lower Austria were switched to yellow (medium risk) by the commission on Thursday, the rest of the country, with the exception of Vorarlberg, to orange (high risk). 

READ MORE: Explained: How does Austria’s coronavirus traffic light system work

Traffic jams expected this evening

Traffic jams are expected across Austria ahead of the Whitsun weekend, broadcaster ORF reports. On Friday afternoon there will be queues at the exits of the larger cities, warns the Ö3 traffic department.

Towards evening, and on Saturday, traffic is likely to shift more to the transit routes, with queues expected in Tyrol (A13, B179) as well as the border points at Walserberg (A8 / A1), the Karawanken tunnel (A11), Spielfeld (A9) and Nickelsdorf (A4).

Delays on the approaches to the tourist regions, such as on the connections on Lake Constance, the Carinthian lakes, in the Salzkammergut, the Neusiedler See, but also in the Wachau are expected. 

Austria crashes out of Eurovision 

Austria’s performer Vincent Bueno has failed to reach the last round of the Eurovision Song Contest. The 35-year-old singer from Austria “seemed very nervous” during his performance with the ballad “Amen” and could not reach top form, Der Standard newspaper reports. 

No wave of bankruptcies predicted in Austria 

State aid during the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to cause backlogs in company bankruptcies, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. A  Creditreform survey Austria had the steepest decline in corporate bankruptcies in Europe with minus 40.7 percent compared to the previous year. However,Gerhard Weinhofer, Managing Director of Creditreform in Vienna, no longer expects a large wave of bankruptcies for Austria as soon as state corporate aid expires.

Mood brightening for construction and industry

The latest industry overview from UniCredit Bank Austria, which shows the mood in the industry is increasingly brightening, both in construction and the service sector, the Wiener Zietung newspaper reports.

However, supply bottlenecks for some raw materials and strong demand for intermediate products are  increasing production costs. The situation in retail is more pessimistic, and the retail climate in particular remains gloomy for the time being, according to Bank Austria.

Number of people in employment in Austria declines

The number of people in employment in Austria in 2020 has begun to decline for the first time, resulting in a shrinking of  the proportion of the population that finances the social system, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Population economist Binder-Hammer finds that the current social system is characterized by high taxes for employed people, a strong redistribution to the retired population and less protection for the young, who have suffered most economically in the recent crisis.