Robert Schuster: How the unloved Austrian government saved the “red Vienna” of energy

Robert Schuster: How the unloved Austrian government saved the “red Vienna” of energy
Robert Schuster: How the unloved Austrian government saved the “red Vienna” of energy

Hand in hand with them, in a short time, they also significantly increased the price of the deposits that trading participants have to pay in order not to fall out of the system and to get any free capacities at all. Vienna had no choice but to turn to the national government for help. She received the necessary liquidity from her so that supplies to the metropolis would not be jeopardized.

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One could say: all’s well that ends well. However, instead, the national and Viennese governments started blaming each other for the crisis situation. There is some suspicion that the energy company owned by the Austrian capital has had problems for a long time. They were not known about, or the city management tried to solve them discreetly behind the scenes, for example with extraordinary subsidies from its reserves.

Under normal circumstances, that would probably be enough, and apparently no one would have noticed the tense situation. However, it was not enough for the current high prices on the markets. Austrian Finance Minister Magnus Brunner therefore reproached the city management for acting in a non-transparent manner and should have spoken earlier. But they didn’t like it at the town hall, so they tried to place the blame on the global markets, or on the federal government, which allegedly stood idly by and didn’t try to slow down the price race at least a little.

Viennese economic recipes

The episode surrounding the Wien Energie company thus once again confirmed the extent of the rivalry between the Vienna City Hall and the Federal Chancellery, which are only a few hundred meters apart as the crow flies. It has a long tradition and it is particularly strongly manifested in situations where politicians with different party colors are sitting in the town hall and in the federal chancellery, as is the case right now.

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While social democrats have been in power in the Austrian capital for a whole century, the national government has been led by conservative populists in recent years. The tension between them was already felt during the covid pandemic, when Vienna and the central government often went in completely opposite directions. When, for example, the chancellor promoted face masks and defended closing schools, they were restrained in Vienna. As soon as the Chancellery decided, on the other hand, that the protection of the nose and mouth could end, in the metropolis they maintained the obligation long after that.

Vienna’s municipal politicians also often complained that no one consults with them from the national level and that they are often faced with a fait accompli. It was probably the most obvious once after the introduction of the covid traffic light. When the system was launched, all Austrian regions were set to green, so as to be trouble-free, only the metropolis was glowing orange.

The social democratic leadership of Vienna has long considered itself to be a kind of center of resistance against the right-wing central government. It has always derived its legitimacy from the fact that the metropolis was well managed and that it was a good place to live. Thanks to traditional and large-scale communal housing construction, it was able to provide relatively affordable housing, which is a huge currency these days. Unexpected problems with the city’s energy supplier, however, showed that Vienna’s economic recipes, which have been tested for years, are short for the current crisis. When the going gets tough, even traditional animosities have to be put aside.

The author is a commentator for Lidové noviny

The article is in Czech

Tags: Robert Schuster unloved Austrian government saved red Vienna energy

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