- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Selling Vienna

The mayor of Vienna, Austria, waltzed into Washington this week to promote his ancient city to U.S. investors and hobnob with local officials.

Michael Haupl, mayor for 10 years, congratulated D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams on the return of baseball and charmed Jane Seeman, the mayor of Vienna, Va., at an Austrian Embassy reception. The two Viennas — one famous for Mozart and Strauss, the other for fast-growing development in the Washington suburbs — have no formal relationship.

Mr. Haupl said the Austrian capital is becoming noted as a center of biotechnology, pharmacology and medicine, in addition to its traditional role as a financial center for central Europe.

Many U.S. companies, such as Coca-Cola, have headquarters in Vienna for their Eastern European operations, he said.

“Companies prefer Vienna. It is a very, very good place. I say that without shame, I am the mayor,” he said with a hearty laugh. “To understand Vienna, you must understand its history.”

The city that is world famous for music and opera began as a Roman military outpost called Vindobona in the first century A.D. It developed along the Danube River over the Middle Ages and was widely hailed for stopping Turkish invasions in 1529 and 1683. The city, annexed by Adolf Hitler’s Germany, was devastated by Allied bombing. It was rebuilt and revived during the past 50 years.

Vienna features Gothic and baroque architecture, as well as modern skyscrapers.

The city often serves as a gateway to the Balkans, where Austrian leaders are actively promoting democracy and stability, Mr. Haupl said.

“This is the last area of Europe where we really have problems. We have to integrate them economically as well as politically,” he said. “We have to give people hope for a good future. Democracy is social welfare.”

Stolen artifact

The U.S. ambassador to Mexico this week returned a valuable altarpiece that thieves had stolen from a Mexican convent three years ago.

“The return of this work of art restores a priceless part of the cultural and religious heritage to the people of Mexico,” Ambassador Tony Garza said in a ceremony on Tuesday.

The altarpiece was discovered on display in an art gallery in Santa Fe, N.M., in April. The gallery’s owner was unaware the piece was stolen.

The 4-by-6-foot panel of wood depicts St. Francis receiving stigmata after having a vision of Jesus, the Associated Press reported from Mexico City.

The carving was stolen from a former Franciscan convent in the village of Tochimilco.

State’s crisis office

The State Department opened a bureau to help strife-torn countries develop democracies and market economies and appointed a trouble-shooting diplomat to direct it.

The office of the coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization will help “societies transition from conflict or civil strife,” said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

“Experience over the past decade has demonstrated that ad hoc responses to complex emergencies are not enough,” he said.

The bureau, established by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, will be led by Carlos Pascual, former ambassador to Ukraine and coordinator for U.S. assistance for Europe and Eurasia.

“The fact that we’re appointing a senior and experienced diplomat, I think, shows how important this kind of prior planning is to the secretary and to making sure that we get on top of future crises,” Mr. Boucher said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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