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Austrian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-02-17 11:04:54
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New haul found in Austria home of Munich art hoarder

An elderly German recluse whose spectacular trove of artworks hidden in his Munich flat probably include Nazi loot kept a further 60 paintings in his home in Salzburg, Austrian media reported on Tuesday. The Salzburg haul includes works by artists such as Monet, Renoir and Picasso, the Austria Press Agency (APA) said quoting a spokesman for Cornelius Gurlitt, whose father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, dealt in "degenerate" art confiscated by Nazi Germany. Ever since the discovery of more than 1,400 works with a total estimated value of 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion) in Gurlitt's Munich flat, speculation had swirled that he may have a further stash of artworks stored elsewhere. APA said Gurlitt's attorney, Christoph Edel, had ordered the works at his Salzburg home to be secured to guard them from theft. At Gurlitt's request, they had also been checked by experts to see if they might have been looted by Nazi Germany. "Initial estimates based on a first review did not harden such a suspicion," it quoted him as saying.

austria_400A spokesman for Edel was not immediately available for comment to Reuters. The German authorities' discovery of the hoarded artworks in Munich in early 2012 caused a sensation when first revealed by a magazine only three months ago. The artworld was stunned by the re-emergence of paintings by some of the 20th century's most famous artists that were long thought to have been lost or destroyed during World War Two. But the German government's handling of the find - which emerged during a routine investigation for suspected tax fraud - was severely criticized by groups representing owners of works that were seized by the Nazi German regime. Germany kept silent for almost two years about the discovery and failed to publish a full list of the artworks - some of which were believed to have been plundered or extorted by the Nazis. The works found in Munich have been confiscated while their provenance is examined.

A court has since ruled Germany must publish a full list. Gurlitt had moved freely for decades between Germany, Austria and Switzerland to sell pieces from his collection. The legal status of many of Gurlitt's works is ambiguous, nearly 70 years after a war in which the Nazis pillaged hundreds of thousands of art treasures from museums and from individuals, most of them Jews.


House hunting in ... Austria

The Austrian market remains strong, buoyed by investors looking for a safe haven after the financial volatility of the past several years. Anton Holzapfel, the general manager of the Austrian Real Estate Association, said prices had risen 5 to 10 percent over the last year, but he expects to see more stability and less growth in the coming year. “For 2014,” he predicted, “the prices won’t increase so strongly as in the past.”

Properties in Salzburg cost €3,000 to €6,000 per square meter ($382 to $765 per square foot), Mr. Holzapfel said. Marlies Muhr, who owns her own agency in Salzburg, says extremely high-end city properties can exceed €10,000 per square meter. “We’ve seen some being sold for €12,000 or a little more, but that’s really rare,” she said, speaking through an interpreter.

Country houses near the city are more desirable in areas like the Salzkammergut, which has lakes and scenic views. Homes there cost €1 million to €2 million, Mr. Holzapfel said. The house profiled here is in a quieter area northeast of the city. Ms. Muhr said the price range in this area was €500,000 to €1.5 million, depending on property size.


Austria burdened by Germany's shift to green power

Weather-driven surges of German solar and wind power may lead to higher costs for Austria as its grid is forced to take measures to avoid breaking down, an Austrian energy regulator said, calling for a region-wide solution to excess flows. Martin Graf, who shares leadership of the Vienna-based E-Control authority with Walter Boltz, said Austria already must deal with a constant unwanted supply of 2,000 megawatts of power from northern Germany that flows into its grid via Poland and the Czech Republic, he said. Germany has been slow to build power lines to ensure its growing renewable supply flows to its own market. "Such load flows go via Poland and the Czech Republic to Austria," Graf said in an interview during the annual E-World energy fair in Essen. "We have a permanent import via the Czechs of 2,000 megawatts." Austria must then cope with additional surges of thousands of megawatts more into its grid, called loop flows, when the weather favours German wind and solar plants. Loop flows, which are most acute in the windy autumn and early winter, can knock out transmission systems and cause blackouts.

Austria could theoretically head off the strain on its grid by mobilizing power capacity that it presses in the opposite direction on the grid, but the question is who pays the extra costs, Graf said. Germany has been in discussions with its neighbours for over two years on the issue. Czech grid agency CEPS said last month it was in agreement with German counterparts to install phase-shifting transformers by end-2016 to guard against excess power flows. Details of which side would pay for them were not revealed. The Czech and German grid operators also agreed on the need for wider regional cooperation, which could involve building transformers along the Polish border as well. These transformers only deflect the flows, which mean that the Czechs and Poles could end up moving even more of the excess on to the Austrian grid. "If Germany and Poland work on deals to remedy this, we may end up being landed with higher costs," Graf said. He said Austria was also in talks with Germany's network regulation authority, the Bundesnetzagentur, about these problems, but he criticized all such bilateral approaches between Germany and the nine surrounding countries. Loop flows were only one of several issues as Graf made a plea for Germany to rein in the harmful impact on neighbouring countries as it shifts from nuclear to green power.

He said Germany is neglecting its neighbours as it considers the idea of building capacity markets, which would reward utilities for keeping gas-fired power stations on standby for operations at times that renewable output is low. "Again, this is just a national debate in Germany. So how are we supposed to build an integrated European energy market that way?" he asked. Germany's renewable boom has driven many gas-fired plants out of the market, including some in Austria. Austria's power market, which is only around a tenth of Germany's 600 terawatt hours a year, is fully aligned with that of its bigger neighbour. "Austria is offering Germany pumped power storage and huge gas storage possibilities and helps provide system stability on German power grids in the winter," Graf said. "Therefore, it should be consulted when there are market changes in Germany." Austria houses the biggest gas storage units in the region where international pipelines converge, which helps prevent seasonal shortages in surrounding countries. It has held power capacity ready for Germany over the past three winters to cushion systems there after Germany hastily closed 40 percent of its nuclear capacity in 2011 in response to the Fukushima disaster.


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