The city of Vienna has a major setback when it comes to deciding on the future location of the Federal Environment Agency. An alternative location in the City Gate Floridsdorf in the federal capital, which was intended to prevent relocation to Klosterneuburg in Lower Austria, has proven to be unsuitable. Climate protection and infrastructure minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) has now made this clear. The move of the Federal Environment Agency to Klosterneuburg, which was already agreed in 2017, is still in the air, however. A location offer was also eliminated there.
For three and a half years it has not been finally decided whether the Federal Environment Agency, which is currently divided into four locations and two Viennese districts, will actually move to Klosterneuburg or whether it will still have its headquarters in Vienna. Even after a year in office, Minister Gewessler has not yet spoken a word of power. In a basic agreement in October 2017, the then Environment Minister Andrä Rupprechter, Lower Austria’s governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Klosterneuburg’s mayor Stefan Schmuckenschlager (all ÖVP) agreed to relocate the federal agency with around 520 employees. The officials and the city of Vienna protested against it. It is still unclear where the new location of the Federal Environment Agency will actually be.
Not suitable for laboratory use
Infrastructure Minister Gewessler has now made it clear, however, that one of the alternative locations offered by the City of Vienna is definitely out of the question if the Federal Environment Agency in need of renovation gets a new home. Specifically, this involves a plot of land in the City Gate Floridsdorf urban development area near the U 1 underground station on Aderklaaerstraße. The proximity to the subway, which is considered an advantage when looking for a location, becomes a disadvantage in this case. As Gewessler reported in the current answer to a parliamentary question from SPÖ environmental spokeswoman Julia Herr, considerations in this regard have been shattered.
Due to the efforts of the City of Vienna, the property mentioned was inspected. During this inspection, it was found that the necessary distance to the U1 tracks for the operation of highly sensitive laboratory equipment such as mass spectrometers could not be established, the minister announced. Conclusion: “The location of this property is therefore not suitable for a laboratory operation.”
Another check was not made, says the answer to the question to the SPÖ parliamentarian. The head of department also asserted that there had not been a specific offer for the Floridsdorf location because it was not possible to derive assessable economic parameters such as purchase or rental prices or waivers of termination. In principle, however, the Minister of Infrastructure makes it clear that the City of Vienna has “in no way and at no time” been excluded from offers. “To date”, however, no evaluable offers have been submitted by the City of Vienna, emphasizes Gewessler.
But the relocation of the Federal Environment Agency, which was already pacted in autumn 2017, is dragging on and does not seem fixed. The costs for the project were estimated at only 46.5 million euros at the time. Because of two pieces of land that the city of Klosterneuburg has offered, one has meanwhile also been ruled out as unsuitable due to the size of the property, as the infrastructure minister announced in her reply to the SPÖ. The second offer is for a property with existing properties owned by the city of Klosterneuburg. However, the head of department was unable to provide detailed information on this with regard to economic interests and any other interested parties in the property with regard to a decision to relocate the Federal Environment Agency.
No deadline stipulated in the basic pact
Basically, the Minister for Climate Protection and Infrastructure states that the accessibility by public transport as well as the available space are essential assessment criteria for the future location of the federal agency. Effects on pollutant emissions would in any case be taken into account when determining the location. “Any expenses related to longer journeys must of course be taken into account in the balance,” the Green politician clarified. The distance to Vienna and the fact that many of the around 500 employees of the Federal Environment Agency had to commute from Vienna to Klosterneuburg were brought up by opponents and critics of moving to Lower Austria.
When it will be clarified and how long the decision will be made is open. In any case, the policy statement from 2017 does not contain any deadlines, explains the infrastructure minister. As such, a decision was already in prospect for the end of the previous year. This decision on the move of the Federal Environment Agency, which is intended for the end of 2020, could not be implemented due to numerous legal and financial questions that still need to be clarified, emphasized Gewessler. We ask for your understanding for this.