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ENVIRONMENT

Eco-protesters pour black liquid on Klimt painting in Vienna museum

Activists of the "Last Generation" spilt a black, oily liquid on the Klimt painting "Death and Life" in the Leopold Museum in Vienna on Tuesday.

Eco-protesters pour black liquid on Klimt painting in Vienna museum
Activists throw oil at a Klimt paying in Vienna on November 15th, 2022 (Screenshot)

Climate activists poured oil on Gustav Klimt’s “Death and Life” painting in the Leopold Museum on Tuesday, social media posts by the protest group “Last Generation” show. 

The museum has confirmed the incident, saying, “We can only hope that the painting was not damaged”.

“Restorers are working to determine whether the painting protected by glass has been damaged,” Klaus Pokorny, spokesperson for the Viennese Leopold Museum, told AFP.

In a statement, the activists wrote: “We need immediate measures against #ClimateBreakdown NOW. Lowering the speed limit to 100km/h on highways costs nothing to implement, saves 460 million tons of CO2 per year in #Austria alone and leads to less noise, better air quality and safer roads.”

“What are we waiting for?” the group wrote on a Twitter post.

READ ALSO: How will climate change impact Austria?

“Stop the fossil destruction” can be heard in the video posted by the group. The activists are protesting against new oil and gas drilling.

“We’re racing towards a climate hell. For 50 years, we’ve known the problem. Emissions are at an all-time high. Heat waves. Droughts. Agriculture will stop working”, one of the activists shouted during the action.

Another activist, who glued himself to the protective glass in front of the picture, said: “Companies like OMV, for example, sponsor this exhibition. They want to wash their slate clean with such subsidies, just like the tobacco industry did back”.

Leopold Day

To commemorate the death of Leopold III, an Austrian prince, the homonymous museum had free admission on November 15th, sponsored by the Austrian oil and gas giant OMV. 

Despite strict controls, such as bags not being allowed inside, the activists were able to smuggle the liquid in a water bottle under their clothes, the newspaper Der Standard reported.

Police and museum security were present and could be seen containing the activists. Several rooms had to be closed to visitors as the protesters spoke with the authorities on site.

Der Standard added that the liquid had already been wiped away from the glass after the incident.

READ ALSO: How expensive are gas and electricity in Austria right now?

Numerous masterpieces across Europe have been attacked in recent weeks in protests at the lack of action against climate change. They have glued themselves to a Francisco Goya in Madrid, thrown soup at Vincent van Goghs in London and Rome, and mashed potatoes on a Claude Monet.

In the wake of the protests, dozens of the world’s top museums issued a joint declaration last week saying environmental activists who attack paintings “severely underestimate” the damage that could be caused. 

READ ALSO: ‘I feel ripped off’: What it’s really like living in Austria right now

The statement was spearheaded by the Prado in Madrid, and signed by the directors of more than 90 world-renowned museums including the Guggenheim in New York, Louvre in Paris and Uffizi in Florence.

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EUROPEAN UNION

EU court rejects Austria case against Hungary nuclear plant

The EU's second highest court on Wednesday rejected a complaint by Austria against a European Commission decision to approve the expansion of a nuclear plant in neighbouring Hungary with Russian aid.

EU court rejects Austria case against Hungary nuclear plant

Staunchly anti-nuclear Austria lodged the legal complaint in 2018 after the European Union’s executive arm allowed the expansion of the Paks nuclear plant outside the Hungarian capital Budapest with a 10-billion-euro ($12.4 billion) Russian loan.

The plant is Hungary’s only nuclear facility and supplies around 40 percent of its electricity needs.

In its decision the commission judged that the project met EU rules on state aid, but Austria disputed this.

The General Court of the EU ruled Wednesday that “member states are free to determine the composition of their own energy mix and that the Commission cannot require that state financing be allocated to alternative energy sources.”

READ ALSO: Why is Austria so anti nuclear power? 

Hungary aims to have two new reactors enter service by 2030, more than doubling the plant’s current capacity with the 12.5-billion-euro construction. The Paks plant was built with Soviet-era technology in the 1980s during Hungary’s communist period. 

The construction of two new reactors is part of a 2014 deal struck between Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Victor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The work is carried out by Moscow’s state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom.

The details of the deal have been classified for 30 years for “national security reasons” with critics alleging this could conceal corruption.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the chances of blackouts in Austria this winter?

Since the late 1970s, Austria has been fiercely anti-nuclear, starting with an unprecedented vote by its population that prevented the country’s only plant from providing a watt of power.

Last month, the Alpine EU member filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice over the bloc’s decision to label nuclear power as green.

In 2020, the top EU court threw out an appeal by Austria to find British government subsidies for the nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in breach of the bloc’s state aid rules.

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