The tech giants of today have it for a long time: the Axel Springer Award. Marc Zuckerberg was honored in 2016, Jeff Bezos in 2018, Elon Musk in 2020.
On Thursday from 7 p.m. in the Berlin headquarters of Springer Verlag, the 2021 winners will be chosen: Biontech founders Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin, two leading vaccine developers from Mainz.
The choice of the award winner was more surprising than the vote in favor of the two scientists: Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is critical of migration, will hold the laudatory speech in the Springer House. While his government is still arguing at the summit of its ongoing coalition crisis about why an additional order for 100,000 doses of the corona vaccine developed by Türeci and Sahin was overslept, the Chancellor is allowed to explain in Berlin what nine million Austrians have missed as a result of this lapse.
Sometimes almost hyperactive
For Kurz, the evening in the Springer House, where he has been welcomed for years, will be balm. At home in Austria he is under considerable attack – and reacts to the increasing criticism with unprecedented haste, sometimes almost hyperactive.
The corruption investigations against his confidante, Finance Minister Gernot Blümel, and other people from the party’s environment? The Chancellor himself, unsolicited, offered himself as a witness to the prosecutors in a sloppily worded letter. The criticism of the failed vaccination strategy of his government? The Chancellor countered with an expensive but unproductive one-day trip to his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.
Last Friday he suddenly went public with criticism of the supposedly unjust distribution of vaccines in the EU and speculated about secret collateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies – just as if an Austrian was not the vice-chairman of the relevant steering committee.
“I don’t know who signed the contracts,” said Kurz, after the files against his better judgment. He probably wanted to wipe out the green coalition partner – regardless of the fact that his minister responsible for health, Rudi Anschober, was on sick leave after a circulatory collapse.
Heretical questions on ORF
For his inclination to constantly look to others to blame, the Chancellor is now facing increased headwinds. In the evening’s main news broadcast on ORF, the political scientist Peter Filzmaier was allowed to ask the heretical question what the supposedly ignorant head of government “actually did professionally in 2021”.
While columnist Christian Nusser mocks that Kurz could at least “get a few vaccinations for us” before or after the award ceremony in Berlin, parts of Vienna are already debating an early end to the coalition of the conservative ÖVP and the Greens – an alliance that is hopeful was started under the motto “The best of both worlds”.
“Oh Austria, oh Tyrol, oh Ischgl,” groaned Jan Böhmermann on ZDF on Friday – full of feigned compassion for the country from which, according to the German satirist, “a dangerous folk artist came decades ago to plunge Europe into disaster «; a country in which the winter sports industry “milks the glaciers while they are still calving” – a swipe at Ischgl, the corona super-spreader community in the Paznaun Valley that has become rich.
Bankruptcies, bad luck and mishaps – and a tight program in Berlin
What Böhmermann could not have suspected: Just hours before the start of broadcasting, the governor Günther Platter, who was responsible for fighting pandemics in Tyrol and thus for Ischgl, was also a victim of winter sports. Having had an accident on a ski tour, of all things, on the anniversary of the mass exodus from Ischgl, he is now doing his official business from the sick camp for the time being.
Bankruptcies, bad luck and breakdowns – the last few months in the fight against the pandemic have been moderate for Austria. The number of new infections more than doubles that in Germany or Switzerland, and the vaccination rate is in the middle of Europe – no glory for the ambitious Kurz. After the lost winter season, the summer season is also threatened. The friction within the coalition and the Chancellor’s tendency to change alliances on the international stage and to go it alone are viewed with concern at the EU level.
The picture that appeared in the Vienna Chancellery on Tuesday was almost symptomatic: Like the young leader of a gang of troublemakers, Kurz stood there in the midst of the three heads of government from the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Bulgaria who were hastily summoned to Vienna. With weak arguments in favor of more European vaccination fairness, “Kurz and Co.” had come together to form an “Alliance of those who had lost their way”, as the bourgeois “press” coldly noted. All talented populists, the three who fell short, together with the Chancellor, brought their rather vague message to Brussels among the people: “The way it is, it shouldn’t stay that way,” said Austria’s head of government on behalf of everyone.
Kurz is now hoping for open ears on Thursday and Friday in Berlin. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and CDU leader Armin Laschet, as well as Ministers Horst Seehofer and Jens Spahn want to take time for him. Only Chancellor Angela Merkel could not find a free minute in her appointment calendar for the official from Vienna.