Austrian Federal President: "We Must Not Allow Ourselves to Be Divided"

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: July 21, 2022; 10:37 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria's Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen addressed the current challenges and hardships in a gripping opening speech at the Bregenz Festival.

In his opening speech at the Salzburg Festival, he emphasised the importance of Austria's unity. / Picture: © Österreichische Präsidentschaftskanzlei / Peter Lechner/HBF

On the occasion of the opening of the Bregenz Festival, Austria's Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen gave a gripping opening speech in which he addressed the current challenges and hardships.

At the beginning of his speech, he addressed the concerns of the many people in Austria who are struggling with rising prices for food and products of daily use.

He said that one should not close one's eyes to the fact that life will be hard for many people in the coming months, among other things because we will have to deal with massive energy problems in winter.

"We are living in a time when the basic elements of our lives are under attack. The peace in Europe. Our freedom, our democracy, the way we want to live, our security of supply, and security overall", he said.

Who is responsible for this bleak situation was obvious to Van der Bellen. Decades of peace and prosperity in Europe were thrown off balance by Russian strongman Vladimir Putin earlier this year, setting off a chain reaction into the abyss, he said.

Putin, he said, had not been able to stand the fact that "people in Europe live in individual freedom and independence".

Van der Bellen emphasised: "While we are opening the festival here today, families in Ukrainian cities are holding out in cellars and air raid shelters. Because all this is not enough from the Russian president's point of view, he is throttling the gas supply in Europe and let's not kid ourselves, he will turn it off completely whenever he pleases."

Van der Bellen considers this powerlessness vis-à-vis the Russian "dictator" unbearable. He was annoyed that the governments of the past years, including himself, had not realised the danger emanating from Russia and had lulled themselves into a false sense of security.

Now it was time to fight for the freedom of Ukraine, because it was not only Ukraine's independence that was in danger. Van der Bellen stressed that it was all about our model of life, political and personal freedom, the rule of law, human rights and democracy, and that all these values must not be lost.

"These are facts. We must recognise them as the first step so that we can liberate ourselves. Only then can we move forward and go into the future shaping and courageously. Then we have a chance to make the new times into which we are unquestionably stepping also good times."

The basic prerequisite for that future, however, is the unity of the European Union. The EU must not allow itself to be divided, because united we can act more strongly against the Russian aggressor.

Cohesion within his country was also a major concern for the President. Above all, those who are suffering acutely from the increasing inflationary pressure need help from those who are not under such massive pressure.

"An Austria where families, pensioners, poor people have to freeze in winter because they can no longer afford energy - that is not the country we want to live in. I am sure of that." he said.

To achieve this, he said, it was necessary to put thermal power plants using fossil fuels back into operation, even if the Federal President did not like having to consider this environmentally harmful measure. In the absence of alternatives, however, he sees no other sensible option. Nevertheless, the switching on of thermal power plants must be followed by the massive expansion of non-fossil energy production.

Presidential Chancellery of Austria