Hubert von Goisern
DE
EN
 

INTERVIEW

Miscellaneous: 2015

"My heart is left-wing, yours is too though"

Der Standard 1st August 2015 | Text: Michael Völker | Photo: Newald
Hubert von Goisern and Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner

Musician Hubert von Goisern and Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner on achievement and poverty,
mumbling in politics, fear and solidarity

STANDARD: You are a Green sympathiser, with limitations. What about the ÖVP (Austrian People's Party) appeals to and interests you?

Goisern: That they stand for values and have a positive approach to traditions. I have that too, but more than that. You have to keep scrutinising it critically. And, well, the man sitting next to me is someone who has nothing to be ashamed of in that respect. That's not often the case with our politicians. And there was a time that I was at such odds with the Greens that I thought I might vote black (ÖVP) one time. But that was only a very brief thought. Marauding Greens are closer to me than the ÖVP.

STANDARD: And what about the ÖVP doesn't suit you at all?

Goisern: I don't like that they have such a concrete approach to education, and have had for decades, I must say. As far as Mr Mitterlehner is concerned, I think it's a shame that he's such a merciless advocate of the TTIP. You can only be merciless in opposition.

STANDARD: How do you feel about this image of the ÖVP?

Mitterlehner: It's wonderful that the traditional values part comes over so well, but otherwise I'd prefer to be perceived differently. We're working on developing educational policies. I'm not the kind to hold rigidly onto something. We really have a problem with communication as far as TTIP is concerned. Austria has always profited from trade agreements. The fact that we're only discussing TTIP on the basis of arbitrating bodies tasks us to communicate better.

Goisern: There's only mumbling with TTIP, there's no transparency. A couple of people who know what they're doing sit together and the population is considered to be too dumb to understand.

Mitterlehner: It's probably a general problem with politics that what is in the background is incommunicable in all its complexity. In the TTIP negotiations for example, it was a mistake in communication that the negotiating mandate was not visible. What is the opposing argument to TTIP from your point of view?

Goisern: I'm for trade restrictions being established too. But that's not only a positive thing. We're flooding Africa with cheap products, meaning that they have to close down their own production. You can't say, pow, down come the borders, then everything will sort itself out.

Mitterlehner: More competition is not to everyone's taste. A business group that has positioned themselves with their own brand has no interest in an American company offering their food here too. Then they start saying that the population must be protected. I'm of the opinion that a citizen should be able to choose themselves, they are mature enough to say, I want that or I don't want that. But our standards must be ensured.

Goisern: I'm an advocate of drinking the beer that's local to where I am. I think it's wrong that in Vienna I can buy a Villach or Vorarlberg beer for the same price as the Ottakringer. That goes even more so for American food. They can offer it here, but then the transport must cost what it costs us in reality, with its effects on the climate too. When a lorry goes from Vorarlberg to Vienna, it needs to cost and really hurt. Then you have to think about whether you want a Viennese or Vorarlberg beer.

Mitterlehner: I think you're right. I'm an advocate of regional production too and of having the least transport possible.

Goisern: But there are things that are made elsewhere, which are simply cool. I play almost exclusively American guitars.

Mitterlehner: You have complained a great deal about the missing smoking ban. What do you say now? We've resolved it wonderfully.

Goisern: It really wasn't wonderful.

Mitterlehner: Well there are a few objections and a transitional period in the smoking bars ...

Goisern: It took far too long to abolish smoking in pubs. And it still hasn't actually happened. Why doesn't it work: the bell rings and now we all have to go outside to smoke?

Mitterlehner: You need an absolute majority for that.

Goisern: It must be easy to get a majority for something like that.

Mitterlehner: People don't want to be patronised. You have to discuss it, it takes time. But certainly: a good deal could happen faster. You know what? Although I'm a politician, I liked your song Brenna tuat's guat very much. How did you come up with the idea for it?

Goisern: These songs seldom come from spontaneous emotion. Things accumulate over a long period of time. And then it comes out of the valve in this process of songwriting. I myself am listening to what comes out. There's a lot of nonsense too.

Mitterlehner: I found the song very motivational too.

Goisern: There are two subjects in it: where is the money that nobody can find ...

Mitterlehner: Money and sustainability, if I've heard it right.

Goisern: Yes, those are the themes. The fact that food is being turned into fuel in the face of people starving, can't work. And I don't understand why we have such a shortage of money.

Mitterlehner: The example of Greece shows: it's not really a shortage of money, but rather a lack of productivity or competition. You have travelled to many other countries, some of which have a different satisfaction, but not everything needs to be brought to our level.

Goisern: No, it need not. I'm an advocate of poverty too. Poverty doesn't need to be a flaw. If someone says, I'm getting by, in an extreme case as a homeless person, why should we look down on them? Why should it be said that is a failed existence? I would not presume to do so.

STANDARD: That doesn't fit with the ÖVP image of meritocracy.

Mitterlehner: I see it as a freedom of choice. I want to give everyone the chance to live their diversity. If they want to be achievement-oriented, they must have access to the education system. But when they sit at home and say they can get by on little and they drink their beer, okay, that's a possibility. But in general you need to work for something. The ÖVP defines citizenship by values such as property, freedom, performance and solidarity. And that assumes that I have to do something. The modesty of simply being is too little.

Goisern: I think so too. Just taking care of yourself is too little if you want to live in a society where you want to use the infrastructure that others create. In that case you can't say: none of that concerns me, leave me in peace.

STANDARD: Why do feelings run so high in discussions about refugees?

Mitterlehner: The facts and subjective perception don't correspond with each other. In the Mühlviertel nobody has met an African refugee and still there's the fear that they're going to steal their job and put them in danger. The subject is only manageable when you can perceive the people as individuals. When I house ten refugees among a thousand people in my hometown, I can make this distinction. When it's hundreds of refugees, or thousands as in Traiskirchen, people are worried. We need to address the subject, not just in politics, but in society too. Human rights are not separable. We must play our part in Austria and Europe needs to demonstrate solidarity.

Goisern: We've all overlooked it. This wave of refugees heralded, including with the tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean. We knew that would come to us too. It needed dealing with sooner.

STANDARD: The Interior Minister apparently warned the Council of Ministers ages ago - and the other ministers were not interested.

Mitterlehner: We have clear authorities in terms of the federation and the provinces. You have to work on the solutions in cooperation with NGOs. We support the Interior Ministry and endeavour ourselves to find opportunities for accommodation in discussion with the provinces and private organisations. Everyone is called upon.

Goisern: It's too little in my eyes for Ms Mikl-Leitner to tell the Council of Ministers. She's not a tender thing. She needs to go out and say what we need to do now.

STANDARD: Heinz-Christian Strache ultimately profits from the debate.

Mitterlehner: That's very regrettable and I hope that will change and people start to think about it. Rejecting everything and doing nothing is not a political programme.

Goisern: To be honest I am stunned that there are so many people who like what Strache says. Evidently there is this third of the population who don't look any further than the end of their nose, who believe when they vote that everything governs itself. We can see that in Greece, though I don't want to compare Tsipras with Strache. But he's a populist too. And now it's even worse than it was before. I was pleased: finally, here comes a red, because my heart is simply left-wing, yours is too though.

Mitterlehner: Sure, but not in politics.

Goisern: Left for me is something positive, it stands for solidarity. Europe is far too right for me and too oriented towards the economy. The slogan "If the economy is fine, we're all fine" is nonsense, I think, it's the other way around: if we're fine, the economy's fine.

Mitterlehner: A dynamic economy is good for everybody, that's what Christoph Leitl meant with his slogan. If we haven't worked for anything beforehand, there's nothing to share.

Goisern: Leitl gives me hives.

Mitterlehner: I hope not, that would be bad for today's concert.

Goisern: It would pass by then. Leitl is among those who share out what others have worked for. I'm talking about the tax on hard drives and artists' copyright. The hard drive tax is finally done, but it's a mess. The hard drive tax has been levied for years, but not passed on to the artist. That the economy presumes to cap these earnings is unbelievable.


Hubert von Goisern was born in 1952 in the Salzkammergut as Hubert Achleitner. The musician has released more than 20 records. He made his breakthrough in 1992 with the album Aufgeigen statt niederschiassen, his new album is called Federn. Goisern is currently on tour.

Reinhold Mitterlehner, born 1955, comes from Helftenberg in Upper Austria. He has been Finance Minister since 2008 and in 2013 also took on the agenda of the Science and Research Minister. In 2014 Mitterlehner became the Vice Chancellor and Head of the ÖVP (Austrian People's Party).