First US Environmental Technology Experts’ Visit to Austria
bridges vol. 16, December 2007 / Feature Article
From October 7th to 14th of this year, the George C. Marshall Austrian-US Visitors Program was held for the first time in Austria. The establishment of such a program was originally announced during a meeting between then-Austrian Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and US President George W. Bush at the Vienna EU-US Summit in June 2006.
Each year from now on, a delegation from the US Senate, the House of Representatives, and various federal and state-level agencies and universities will be invited to visit Austria. They will participate in a weeklong series of presentations, briefings, and meetings that highlight Austrian innovations in industry and technology, while improving mutual understanding through communications on both a personal and a professional level.
The Marshall Visit 2007 focused on "Environmental Technology," an area in which Austria is among the leaders worldwide and
is able to provide best practice models, expertise, and innovative know-how. The comprehensive weeklong visitors' program was prepared and coordinated by the Ministry for European and International Affairs in cooperation with the responsible federal ministries, the Austrian Parliament, the City of Vienna, the regional government of Lower Austria, and the Austrian Economic Chamber. The heavy schedule included not only numerous meetings with experts on sustainability and environmental technologies, but also visits to facilities such as Biodiesel Vienna in Lobau, to Europe's largest passive house office building in St. Pölten, Lower Austria, and to the waste incinerator of the Fernwärme Wien in Spittelau.
Apart from offering Austrian and American experts and entrepreneurs a unique personal platform for exchanging information and best practice models in the area of environmental technologies, the visit also helped to build useful contacts and develop networks within the professional community. Currently, two concrete projects are being pursued: a "Memorandum of Understanding" regarding Environmental Technologies between Austria and the government of California, and a potential participation of the City of Vienna in a conference on the topic of restoration of river beds planned for spring 2008 in Washington, DC.
The following Q&A is based on an interview in which Austrian Information spoke with Dale Medearis, senior environmental planner with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and a participant in this year's visit.
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