The Relationship with the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation

 The University of New Orleans’ (UNO) Center Austria relationship with the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation started when it organized a big conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan in May 1998. Günter Bischof has been pursuing a deep personal interest in the Marshall Plan’s workings in Austria since his graduate student days at Harvard University.

He noticed in 1997 that the memory of the Marshall Plan was quite shallow in Austria, after having attended conferences elsewhere in Europe. This absence of cultivating the memory of the Marshall Plan in Austria inspired Bischof to organize the New Orleans conference. The top experts on the Marshall Plan in Austria attended the New Orleans meeting. Kurt Löffler and Hans Fußenegger, the leaders of the Austrian ERP-Fonds (ERP = European Recovery Program), attended the meeting and gave a notable paper on the history of ERP-Fund since its foundation in 1962. Ferdinand Lacina, a former Minister of Finance and long-term government official, also attended the New Orleans meeting. Gordon “Nick” Mueller and Günter Bischof presented the case to Löffler, Fußenegger and Lacina that a donation from the ERP-Fonds could start an Austrian Chair program at UNO.

The Marshall Plan Chair program was started in 2001 and the Austrian gift complimented UNO for its long-term partnership with the University of Innsbruck. The New Orleans conference papers were published in both German and English. In order to make the donation to UNO, a mechanism needed to be set up in Vienna to legally transfer the funds abroad to UNO. Under the auspices of the ERP-Fonds the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation was set up in 1999 to transfer the funds. With the vigorous lobbying of the ERP-Fund in Vienna, the Austrian Cabinet under Chancellor Viktor Klima passed a resolution to endow the new Marshall Plan Jubiläumsstiftung (MP Foundation). After signing an agreement with UNO in January 2000, the new MP Foundation transferred the funds to UNO.

Under the auspices of the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors matching funds program, UNO received additional funding from the State of Louisiana for the newly endowed Austrian Marshall Plan Chair to be annually filled with a young Austrian scholar to come and teach at UNO. To jump start the program, the first Austrian MP Chair was appointed for the spring semester of 2001. Since then, an additional 15 Austrian scholars from the fields of history, finance, economics, political economy, political science, urban studies, geography, diplomacy, and visual studies have come and taught at UNO for a year. Untold numbers of UNO students thus have profited from their expertise and knowledge. The program’s focus was changed in 2016 with the appointment of a permanent MP Chair at UNO.

Center Austria has continued to engage in programming with the MP Foundation in Vienna. For the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan in 2007, Center Austria and the MP Foundation organized a conference in Vienna on the “Selling of the Marshall Plan” with top scholars in the field. The papers of the conference were published by Günter Bischof and Dieter Stiefel, who coedited the volume Images of the Marshall Plan in Europe: Films, Photographs, Exhibits, Posterswhich appeared in the TRANSATLANTICA series and was published by StudienVerlag in 2009.

In addition, in 2007, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, the Austrian Minister of Economics Martin Bartenstein and U.S. Ambassador Susan McCaw decided to start a scholarship program for Austrian and American students to study abroad. 1,000 such scholarships have been funded since 2007. Austrian students have studied at UNO, while UNO students have studied in Austria.

In the fall of 2013, Center Austria and the MP Foundation organized a workshop on a comparison between regional economic development in the U.S. South and the European Union. The papers were edited by Günter Bischof and published as Regional Economic Development Compared: EU-Europe and the American South with innsbruck university press in 2014. With the move of Center Austria into the new International Studies Center at UNO in February 2016, the decision was made to rename Center Austria as “Center Austria: The Austrian Marshall Plan Center for European Studies.” MP Foundation officials were present at the opening and made the announcement to upgrade the Marshall Plan Chair program with an additional gift.

The Austrian MP Foundation has commissioned Günter Bischof to write a book on the “Marshall Plan in Austria” to be published on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s iconic speech at Harvard University, announcing the Marshall Plan. Thus the close cooperation of the Austrian MP Foundation with UNO’s Center Austria as one of its principal partners in the U.S. (next to UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins’ School of Advance International Studies) is continuing.

Günter Bischof
Center Austria