Expert Interview: Dr. Michael Häupl, Mayor of Vienna For the ninth consecutive year, Vienna, Austria, topped Mercer’s global quality-of-living city ranking. This capital city is located in the northeastern part of the country and with a population nearing 2 million inhabitants, making it the country's largest city. Widely regarded as the cultural, political, and economic center of Austria, Vienna has the highest living standards within the country and scores highly in a number of categories included in Mercer’s cumulative quality of living assessment. Among other things, the city provides a safe and stable environment for expatriates, boasts an extensive offering of international consumer goods, and maintains high-level public utilities, transportation facilities, and recreational facilities. Mercer had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Michael Häupl, the mayor of Vienna since 1994. Dr. Häupl was happy to discuss his vision on the quality of living within his city, Vienna’s many accomplishments, as well as the various challenges it’s faced, opportunities it’s had, and the key decisions he’s made throughout his past 20 years of leadership. Over the past 20 years, Vienna has continuously improved and maintained the living standard of its residents. In your opinion, what have been the primary challenges and successful initiatives which have truly made a difference in the living standard of your city? When I took office as Vienna’s Mayor back in 1994, one of my most important tasks was to lead Vienna and the country to adhere to the European Union (EU). A year later, in 1995, Austria acceded successfully as a member to the EU. Due to its geographical location within the heart of Europe, the Austrian capital, Vienna, has always been considered as an international hub, especially arching between the East and West. Moreover, following our accession to the EU, we have been able to expand and strengthen this position even more. Among several initiatives, establishing Vienna as a main location for science and research has been another important step. This was also triggered by the fact that in 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was created and known to the world as “Atoms for Peace.” This organization is part of the United Nations umbrella. The IAEA is the center for cooperation in the nuclear field and its headquarters is located in Vienna, hence creating a momentum in the city for having science and research institutes. Undoubtedly, success in the future and jobs for our next generations will lie within these specific domains. As an example, we have already succeeded in replacing many of “the smoking chimneys of factories” through the creative minds of scientists and researchers. From a social environment, the city of Vienna has a proven track record of maintaining one of the highest levels of social balance amongst European cities. Vienna is often considered as the safest large city on the European continent. We have achieved this status through following a simple approach, i.e.: “We leave no one behind. In Vienna, we do take care of all the people whether they are from a different cultural origin, ethnicity or religion. It’s highly unlikely for you to find any type of ghettos or no-go-areas that are highly unsafe.” However, by and large, Vienna is still not in a position to tell other cities what they should do in order to increase their own living standards. In my opinion, as a start for success, the key issue is to achieve a unique social balance in all given cities. What would be your main priorities for Vienna over the next 20 years? The city of Vienna continues to develop and innovate at a fast pace. In order to be successful, economic and innovative policy measures must be aimed at creating the conditions needed to safeguard the competitiveness of our growing city, while at the same time not leaving the social factors behind. Smart City Wien is a long-term initiative aimed to improve the design, development and perception of the federal capital. Smart City Wien looks at a cross-section of the city, covering all areas of life, work and leisure activities in equal measure, and includes everything from infrastructure, energy and mobility, to all aspects of urban development. In a few words, how would you describe Vienna, both now and in the future? Vienna is one of the top cities in the world as far as quality of living, and our motto is to take care of everyone who needs our help. This is what Vienna has been renowned for. I am convinced that we can maintain a similar living standard in the near future, even as Vienna reaches two million inhabitants. The city of Vienna has all the features required to remain one of the best cities in the world in the coming 30 years!