Alexander Van der Bellen speaks in the “Today”-Interview about the election, what he thinks of public health checks and peace negotiations in Vienna.
Austrian mission to the UN, Manhattan, 31st floor: “I think I’m doing quite well,” says Alexander Van der Bellen about Alexander Van der Bellen. On October 9, he wants to aim high in the Hofburg elections – the 78-year-old is aiming for a second term. The great “Today”-Interview about the war in Ukraine, its election campaign and the crisis winter of 2022:
“Today”: You met Turkish President Erdogan a few hours after the renewed escalation in the Ukraine war. Which side is he actually on? is he credibly trying to mediate?
Alexander Van der Bellen: Yes, he is anyway. At the moment, however, the doors between Ukraine and Russia have closed again. Negotiations on grain exports from Ukraine across the Black Sea took place in Turkey. With the help of President Erdogan, but also to a large extent through the participation of the UN, they have led to success. That was a very important step.
In your opinion, should Turkey eventually become a member of the EU?
This debate is over 50 years old. This is not currently an issue, but Turkey is of course an important strategic partner.
You have argued that talks between Russia and Ukraine must continue. Can Austria make a contribution here?
As a neutral country, Austria will not deliver any weapons, but is always available as a place of discussion. Vienna is a famous, well-known place of negotiation. Since the State Treaty of 1955, we have always endeavored to make neutrality useful for the world as well. We can be proud of that.
At the same time, we should invest more money in our foreign policy. Austria’s diplomatic missions abroad need the necessary attention and resources in these challenging times.
Second term? “I think I’m doing pretty well.”
Do you currently see the possibility of peace talks in Vienna?
Not for the time being. With Putin’s renewed escalation, the negotiating doors seem to have closed. But who knows: In two or three months it could be different again.
Let’s get to the election campaign: You want to be re-elected on October 9th. When did you decide to do the “second round”?
It’s been a while. In recent years I have made valuable international contacts and gained a lot of experience. And I love working for Austria with all my heart. So the decision was easy. I think I’m doing pretty well.
There was no key experience?
No, it’s more the urgent challenges of the time and the positive feedback in the conversations with very different people.
Your wife is considered your most important advisor. is that her
It’s the same as with most couples, you’re interested in what’s on the other’s mind, you listen and bring in perspectives and perceptions, but in the end it’s the Federal President who decides – and that’s me. In addition, I have a very good team and, as Federal President, excellent advisors for practically all departments that I can call at any time.
Did she advise you to add a second term?
We discussed it, and of course it has a major impact on how we live together. And in the end they both agreed that I should do it.
An actual “Today”poll currently sees you at 59 percent. Actually, you’ve been through a long time without a runoff…
A choice is a choice and deserves respect. There can always be surprises. there are no “gmaht’n Wies’n”. I am trying to get every vote and ask the Austrians to vote anyway.
You will be 79 in January. A regular health check is planned for US Presidents, which will then be published. Would that be conceivable for you too?
I don’t see the need, but of course it’s conceivable.
Which politician in history do you admire?
There are always politicians from whom one finds a statement good, but without necessarily sharing all the others. But I make no secret of the fact that Angela Merkel was an incredibly important integration figure for Europe in recent decades and a really impressive woman. Or Barack Obama with “Yes we can”. As a member of a minority, he managed to express self-confidence and optimism in three words.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll get through this winter quite well.”
Her first term in office was very much shaped by Sebastian Kurz in terms of domestic politics. When was the last time you spoke to him on the phone?
We not only talked on the phone, we also met – shortly after he left Parliament.
Was the collaboration marked by respect?
You recently said on TV that nobody would have to freeze “excessively” in winter. Are you expecting a rough winter in Austria?
Yes, it will be challenging. But I’m optimistic that we’ll get through this winter quite well. But for me it’s not just about heating the apartments. The energy that the baker needs next door also has to be affordable. The bread still has to be sellable over the counter. So you have to keep an eye on private households, trade and industry.
The Austrians are massively burdened by inflation. Will it need more government support?
I can’t rule that out. But packages worth billions have already been approved. Some work immediately, some only next year. In any case, the government must constantly respond to future developments and will make adjustments if necessary.