VIENNA : On October 26, Austria celebrates its Nationalfeiertag, or Austria’s National Day. The official celebrations on October 26th began around 9:00 a.m. on Vienna’s Heldenplatz with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony by Van der Bellen and the federal government at the Outer Castle Gate.
Just before 11:00 a.m., two Eurofighters coming from the air base in Zeltweg, Styria, and a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft flew over Heldenplatz. However, fog “due to the low cloud base”, as it was said, clouded the view for the viewers. The fighter jets could only be heard clearly. Around 11:00 a.m., after the report to the Federal President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the prelude to the highlight of the celebrations took place in front of an honorary guard company. After the speeches by Ludwig, Tanner, Nehammer and Van der Bellen, just over 1,000 consular officers and two soldiers from various organizations were sworn in at the Heldenplatz.
After the oath of allegiance (according to paragraph 41, paragraph 7 of the Defense Act), Federal President Van der Bellen gave the order to withdraw around noon. At the time, numerous visitors had already gathered at the Heldenplatz, where the army was represented with its performance show for the first time since 2019. Vehicles and equipment from different branches of the military, including tanks, helicopters, special vehicles and various demonstrations were on display. Already where the Police was represented with its performance show for the equipment’s from different branches of the Police, including various demonstrations were on display.
Various institutions had invited to the open day. On the national holiday, the gates of political institutions opened. The population crowded into the Chancellor’s arm in Vienna to observe the office of Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) and Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen invited representatives of civil organizations to his office. Not only did the performance of the army at Heldenplatz in Vienna turn into a mass event on the national holiday, the political castles were also literally stormed. National holiday: performance show at the Heldenplatz in Vienna as a mass event. The start was made by the alternative quarters of the parliament, where in the morning National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP), lined by his deputy Doris Bures (SPÖ) and his deputy Norbert Hofer (FPÖ) spread his arms in a good mood.
Hofburg in Vienna not quite as open as before the corona pandemic. The Federal Chancellery held an unrestricted open day – and was surprised by the rush of visitors. Even before the opening at 12 noon, a line hundreds of meters long had formed on the Ballhausplatz. This was opposed by the Ministers Susanne Raab, Karoline Edtstadler and State Secretary Claudia Plakolm (all ÖVP), who received the visitors in the different historical rooms. The finale went to the chancellor’s office, where Nehammer personally explained the symbolism of the facility for a while. The head of government emphasized that the house belongs to the population.
Politicians merely “borrowed” this. Nehammer also had a lot to report on the reconstruction of the institution after the Second World War. And also met the most pressing wish of some visitors: selfies with the chancellor. On the occasion of the national holiday, the federal government made a promise to the Austrian people to work for the country and to defend the security, independence and freedom of Austria. In a joint statement, Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) renewed the promise they made in the government program to “work out of responsibility for Austria”.
This responsibility consists of “ensuring that, especially today, we maintain, defend and strengthen security, independence and freedom”. “Security means that we are clearly committed to comprehensive national defense and security precautions. The reassessment of the threat situation, the increase in the federal army budget and the increase in funds for development cooperation are a sign of Austria’s contribution to a strong peace, security and foreign policy in the united Europe.
“The economic effects of the war of aggression, which more and more people are feeling every day, are being counteracted with extensive aid. “In this way we are also strengthening social peace in our country.” On the whole, two topics shaped the political speeches on the national holiday on Wednesday: neutrality and the Ukraine war. The former is a “high good”, it was said several times. Clear commitments to the army and military national defense followed, which probably would not have sounded like this without the Ukraine war. After two years of a forced break due to the pandemic, the army was again represented with its performance show on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, and over 1,000 recruits were sworn in. Only fog was not planned for the Eurofighter demonstration. At the beginning of his speech, Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen said that Russian President Vladimir shook the European security architecture by attacking Ukraine. It has been shown that war can again come close to one’s own borders.
The Federal President reminded the recruits on Heldenplatz of the oath formula and its meaning before they were sworn in. Perpetual neutrality is a “great good”, but when you talk about it, “the second sentence often goes unmentioned”, which reads: “Austria will maintain and defend it with all the means at its disposal.”In the army, the rigorous austerity measures have left their mark over many years, endangering the security of the country and the troops. According to Van der Bellen, he very much welcomes the fact that his demand for a larger budget for the army is now being implemented. The Federal President referred to the army’s wide range of services, from the protection of critical infrastructure to assistance operations, such as the recent one during the coronavirus pandemic. Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) – himself, as he emphasized, still a militia soldier – initially looked back on his own swearing-in at the time of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and the use of the federal army at the state border at the time. Now there is war in Europe again, people are suffering endlessly.
The war in Ukraine also shows “how important it is to be able to defend yourself”. National military defense had been neglected for many years. Now the federal government has learned its lesson, the army is being better equipped. Nehammer spoke of two “big pegs” that would be hammered in: on the one hand, increasing the security budget and, on the other hand, guaranteeing independence by becoming less dependent on fossil fuels, for example. He recalled the concept of “comprehensive national defence” laid down in the constitution, which is now more important than ever and a “term that has not been heard for a long time”. This includes the four components of military, spiritual, civil and economic national defense – hence Nehammer’s goal of becoming more economically independent and not being susceptible to blackmail. The world is changing,” said Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP), who had spoken before Van der Bellen and Nehammer, at the beginning of her speech. February 24, the day the Russian army marched into Ukraine, was a “watershed”. Things that were taken for granted became obsolete within hours. All countries should have reorganized their politics.
“We also have to reorient ourselves,” says Tanner. Neutrality is a “high good”, but not a protection. The army protects the country and neutrality. But February 24 also meant that the army had to be reconsidered. According to Tanner, the main task of the army is the military defense of the country, everything else is a secondary task. She referred to the investment packages, such as the 16 billion euros that are to be invested in the troops over the next four years. The long-standing credo of “protection and help” must be further developed in a “mission forward”.The first speaker was Vienna’s Mayor Ludwig. He spoke of a “complex situation” and a “turning point” with the war in Ukraine. The current caesura in international politics is also being particularly noticed in Austria.
“We long for peace,” said Ludwig, quoting the then German Chancellor Willy Brand with the well-known words that peace is not everything, “but without peace everything is nothing”. According to Ludwig, Vienna, with the headquarters of the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is a “city of peace” in a neutral Austria. With the federal law on perpetual neutrality, Austria had made an obligation “that we also want to live up to today”, but neutrality is not where humanity is at stake. The Mayor of Vienna referred to the reception of the numerous displaced persons from the Ukraine, and the Mayor of Vienna thanked the Austrian Armed Forces for their help in various historical and current crisis situations.
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