February 13th 2015

Universities Meet Friends - Let's go Munich!

Innsbruck’s universities and the MCI with Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz in the heart of the Bavarian capital at the invitation of German Friends of the Universities in Innsbruck – “Integration through Achievement“ as a successful concept for coexistence – bridge building between Austria and Germany and promoting relations between the academic and business worlds and society

“Universities Meet Friends - Let’s go Munich!” Under this appealing motto, the German Friends of the Universities in Innsbruck (DFK) and the Innsbruck universities and the MCI again took the Bavarian capital by storm this year with an exciting event held in Munich’s splendid Maximilianeum.

Following such prominent keynote speakers in the last few years as Minister of Economic Affairs Reinhold Mitterlehner, Minister of Science Karlheinz Töchterle and Governor Günther Platter, who provided valuable inputs at a forum dedicated to good relations between the neighboring states of Tyrol and Bavaria and between Austria and Germany, this year’s star in an impressive event was Europe’s youngest foreign minister.

In a speech packed with specific examples, personal experiences and witty bon-mots, Austrian Federal Minister Sebastian Kurz underscored the motto of the “Meeting Friends” series of events, which was launched four years ago, and explained to his illustrious audience the sociopolitical strategy of “Integration through Achievement”.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz said that migrants should be measured, not according to their origins, but in terms of their performance at work, in the family and in society. Successful integration, he continued, is based on a knowledge of German and success in education and at the workplace, which is why his ministry is concentrating on these fields. He pointed out that government spending on language teaching in early childhood had been significantly increased and that an additional 60 million euros would be made available for kindergartens by 2018. He also mentioned that the government was working flat out on legislation to simplify recognition of qualifications obtained in other countries in the interest of equal opportunities on the job market.

The Minister then went on to discuss the new Islam Law that was about to come into effect in Austria, which would clarify the rights and duties of Moslems living in Austria and create a framework for a European Islam without influence from abroad. Kurz said that, in an enlightened country based on the rule of law, there was no more room for a political Islam than for any other form of political instrumentalization of religion. Where religious feelings are offended, he added, it is the courts and not policy-makers who must take a decision. In addition to several other pillars, the Minister said he saw in the Islam Law now before Parliament an important step towards an active style of coexistence. There is no contradiction, according to Kurz, between being a convinced Moslem and a proud Austrian, but equally he said there could be no tabu on the withdrawal of state support in cases of a substantial refusal to integrate. Kurz added that an active approach was required to the challenges of migration and that the problems noted had to be debated and solved instead of simply assigning people who pointed to the problems to the extreme right wing. That is how the Foreign Minister sees the responsible policies needed to avoid a social schism. Respect for other cultures, he concluded, is fundamental and can be expected of both the host society and the incoming migrants.

DFK Chairman Dr. Yorck Schmidt said he felt the German Friends of the Universities in Innsbruck had fulfilled their mission, namely to bring the University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck Medical University and Management Center Innsbruck into contact with leading public figures, companies and institutions in the worlds of science and business, to promote a dialog and encounter between neighbors and to help further develop Austro-German relations.

The event was attended by President of the Bavarian State Parliament Barbara Stamm, long-serving Member of the Bavarian State Parliament and Chairman of the Bavarian Medical Council Dr. Thomas Zimmermann, President of the Jewish Religious Community in Munich and Upper Bavaria Charlotte Knobloch, the Austrian Ambassador Dr. Nikolaus Marschick and the Austrian Consul General in Munich Dr. Helmut Koller. The Tyrolean contingent included President of the Tyrolean State Parliament Dr. Herwig van Staa, Rectors Dr. Helga Fritsch (MUI) and Dr. Andreas Altmann (MCI), Vice-rector Dr. Sabine Schindler (LFU), Innsbruck City Councillor Franz X. Gruber, German Honorary Consul to the Tyrol Dr. Dietmar Czernich and over 200 top academics, business people and leading social figures.

A lively and attractively chaired discussion and a successful conclusion to the event are further powerful evidence of the success of the attractive mission adopted by the German Friends of the Universities in Innsbruck with their "Universities Meet Friends“ and their bridge-building function between Austria and Germany and the scientific and business worlds and society.