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Austria: Live biz blasts EU for blocking funding

Industry professionals have criticised the European Commission for standing in the way of a much-needed rescue package for nightlife and tourism businesses

By IQ on 21 Sep 2020

Austrian finance minister Gernot Blümel (centre) has criticised the EC for its "bizarre" objections

Austrian finance minister Gernot Blümel (centre) has criticised the EC for its "bizarre" objections

image © BMF/Wenzel (CC BY 2.0)

A coalition of Austrian live entertainment businesses has warned that the European Union’s decision to deny it emergency aid could deliver a “fatal blow” to an already struggling sector.

The Austrian government had planned to provide the country’s ailing nightlife industry with a second so-called fixed-cost subsidy (Fixkostenzuschuss II) – a payment intended to support companies with little or no business throughout autumn/winter 2020. However, the plan is not popular with Brussels, which has reportedly asked for detailed information about the subsidy, which would primarily benefit entertainment and tourism businesses.

According to Vindobona, the European Commission – whose approval is necessary for the state aid – takes issue with both the size of the package (‘phase one’ was worth €8 billion) and its duration, until 2021.

The EU’s objection to the bail-out has taken Austrian politicians by surprise, with finance minister Gernot Blümel quoted as saying: “It is bizarre that Austria has to prove that this economic catastrophe really exists.”

“If the EU says this is not a catastrophe, I no longer understand the world”

Representatives of the Austrian Event Industry Association (Interessengemeinschaft Österreichische Veranstaltungswirtschaft, IGOEV), which was formed earlier this year, are similarly bewildered, with an angry Christoph Klingler, the CEO of CTS Eventim Austria, exclaiming: “Apparently, Brussels is prepared to accept an Austria without culture and events while it concerns itself with the technical details.”

“The culture and events industry is on the ground,” adds Ewald Tatar, head of leading promoter Barracuda Music. “If the EU says that this is not a catastrophe, then I no longer understand the world.”

“The consequences” of blocking the phase-two subsidy “will be dramatic: Masses of bankruptcies, ruined livelihoods and an entire industry, with all its employees and service providers, having to start again from scratch,” says Matthias Rotermund of Live Nation Austria. “The entertainment industry will take years to get back on its feet.”

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz last week announced the tightening of coronavirus restrictions amid an increase in daily cases of Covid-19, including limiting mass gatherings to 1,500 people. The country previously had one of the most liberal attitudes towards live events in Europe, allowing up to 10,000 people in stadia with social distancing.


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