A royal visit to Austria does not happen very often. In the case of the Spanish royal family, ties have grown through centuries of history.
For the funeral of Federal President Thomas Klestil, the then heir to the throne was in Vienna together for the first time. Yesterday’s meeting was preceded by lengthy planning: a year and a half ago, Felipe VI. and his wife Letizia are supposed to come to Austria, but the working meeting had to be postponed due to the corona virus. The pandemic was also making itself felt now: due to the large number of military operations, the second honorary company of the Guard, befitting its status, was missing.
Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (VP) picked up the Spanish royal couple at the airport. At 1 p.m. Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife Doris Schmidauer posted themselves in the courtyard to receive the royal couple. The guard music greeted the guests with the Spanish and Austrian anthems.
There was a strict mask requirement, journalists had to show 2G proof and a PCR test. Numerous Spanish media were represented and reported on the short visit. There were apparently many Spaniards among the onlookers who had gathered in the Hofburg area. They alternately shouted “Viva Espana” (“Long live Spain”) or “Viva el Rey” (“Long live the king”).
In front of the Hofburg, two “grandmas against the right” demonstrated for a more humane refugee policy, another had put a ribbon around his neck and declared himself a Habsburg.
The reception was followed by confidential talks and a joint meal in the President’s office. Gazpacho, zander, saddle of venison and apple strudel were served. As a present, Van der Bellen gave Felipe a Sachertorte, who had celebrated his 54th birthday the day before. Earlier, Schallenberg gifted the Spanish king a red-white-red tennis racket in recognition of his compatriot Rafael Nadal’s recent triumph at the Australian Open. An appointment with Chancellor Karl Nehammer (VP) was not planned.
Nothing was disclosed about the content of the talks. There wasn’t much time allotted for that either. In the afternoon, Felipe and Letizia, accompanied by Van der Bellen, visited the memorial against war and fascism in front of the Albertina. They commemorated the approximately 5,000 Spaniards who fled from General Franco to France and were transferred to the Mauthausen concentration camp by the National Socialists.
The conclusion was a visit to the Belvedere, where the Spanish royal couple opened the exhibition “Dali – Freud. An Obsession”. In it, the Spanish surrealist’s admiration for the Austrian father of psychoanalysis is dealt with. At 6.30 p.m. the rounds were over and the couple flew back.
Presidential election: decision in May?
Away from the hustle and bustle surrounding the first visit of Spain’s King Felipe and his wife Letizia, preparations for the presidential elections to be held in November are continuing around the Hofburg.
“We are in the final phase of this decision,” said incumbent Alexander Van der Bellen when asked if he wanted to run for another six years. In fact, this process should already be well advanced, as confirmed by the OÖ Nachrichten from the head of state’s immediate environment. Van der Bellen “is fitter today than he was when he ran in 2016” and feels comfortable in his role, an insider reports.
In addition, there is a constant high in the polls and declarations from the ÖVP and the SPÖ, which have now been confirmed several times, that they do not want to run against them.
From today’s perspective, Van der Bellen would only have to reckon with serious competition from the blue camp. FP boss Herbert Kickl should continue to tend to predecessor Norbert Hofer.
In order not to give a competitor too much time to warm up, the final phase mentioned at the beginning should take some time. According to reports, Van der Bellen is to follow his predecessor Heinz Fischer, who announced his second candidacy six months before the Hofburg elections. Which means that final clarity can be expected at the beginning of May.
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