Today in Austria: A round-up of the latest news on Wednesday

Find out what's going on today in Austria with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Could Tyrol be open in May
Cows are decorated with bells and flowers before leaving their summer pastures during the annual ceremonial "cattle drive". (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Regional openings in May?

Tyrol’s governor Günther Platter has called for opening steps in May before the federal-state summit on Friday, broadcaster ORF reports.

He told the APA agency infections were falling in Tyrol and the intensive care units were not under pressure as in the east of Austria.

Platter has also floated the idea of regional openings as different states in Austria are facing different pressures.

Styria shows fewest coronavirus infections in Austria 

According to the AGES database, the seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 208.6. The number is still highest in Vienna (272.7), Carinthia (219.6) and Upper Austria (206.9). For the first time in weeks, the lowest value is no longer in Vorarlberg (175.8), but in Styria (161.7).

New Health Minister appointed for Austria

As reported yesterday in The Local, Austria’s Green Party health minister Rudolf Anschober resigned on Tuesday, and will be replaced by the Green’s Wolfgang Mückstein.

Austrian broadcaster ORF reports Mückstein is a general practitioner who has little political experience.

‘15 months has felt like 15 years’: Why Austria’s health minister called it quits

The Austrian Der Standard  newspaper describes Rudolf Anschober as a “corona workaholic” who ran out of strength. It says he had one of the toughest jobs in the country last year. 

Anschober said: “The pandemic does not take a break. That is why a health minister cannot take a break,”  according to the Wiener Zietung newspaper, which also reports Anschober had recently developed health problems and collapsed due to overwork.

Challenges for new Health Minister

Austrian newspaper Der Standard has outlined the challenges the new Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein should address. This includes reacting to virus mutations, increasing willingness to test and overcoming vaccine hesitancy as well as increasing treatment capacities for Long Covid.

Long-term care reform should be developed, and there is a risk of a larger funding gap at the hospitals due to lower tax revenues as a result of high unemployment during the pandemic.

Austria’s ruling coalition pledges to keep working together

Newspapers in Austria have focused on the political fallout from the resignation. Austrian newspaper Der Standard says there were reports of tensions between the minister and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz before the resignation. 

The Wiener Zietung newspaper reports there were frustrations for Anschober due to “party tactics and populism”. It also says he felt “alone” in conflicts while dealing with the federal states. However, both the Green and ÖVP parties have pledged to keep working together in the governing coalition. 

Companies are ‘abusing’ short term work policy 

Companies have been abusing Austria’s short time work policy, Der Standard newspaper reports. There have been 3,816 reports of deviations from the funding applications following 7,072 controls of companies, by the Public Employment Service (AMS) and the construction workers’ leave and severance fund (BUAK).

The information comes from Finance Minister Blümel as an answer to a parliamentary question from the Neos party. However, only 230 reports resulted in reports to the police and the public prosecutor. 

READ MORE: Austria extends furlough scheme until end of June

Record profit for Wien Energy

Wien Energie set a profit record last year. The annual surplus rose by almost four fifths to €360 million, and sales climbed by one sixth to €1.95 billion. The Wiener Zeitung newspaper  reports rapidly recovering gas and electricity wholesale prices as well as CO2 prices have helped.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Austrian government comes under fire over ‘Islam map’

The Austrian government came under fire on Thursday for a new "Islam map" showing the location of mosques and associations around the country, with religious groups saying it would stigmatise Austria's Muslim population.

Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled the controversial website. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled the controversial website. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled an internet website earlier called the “National Map of Islam” with the names and locations of more than 600 mosques, associations and officials and their possible links abroad.

However, the interactive map — compiled in collaboration with the University of Vienna and the Documentation Centre of Political Islam — alarmed many of Austria’s Muslims and the ruling centre-right ÖVP party’s coalition partner, the Greens, also distanced itself from it.

Map demonstrates ‘intent to stigmatise all Muslims’

The IGGÖ Muslim representative council said in a statement that it “demonstrates the government’s manifest intent to stigmatise all Muslims as a potential danger”.

The Green party’s spokeswoman for integration Faika El-Nagashi complained that “no Green minister or MP was involved or even told about it.

“The project mixes Muslims with Islamists and is the contrary to what integration policy should look like.”

Map not meant to ‘place Muslims in general under suspicion’

Raab insisted that the map was not meant to “place Muslims in general under suspicion”.

The aim was “to fight political ideologies, not religion,” she said. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has regularly criticised what he calls “political Islam”.

“Imagine if a similar map was drawn up for Judaism or Christianity,” said Tarafa Baghajati, the head of another Muslim organisation, complaining that it equated terrorism with religion.

He pointed out that around eight percent of Austria’s overall population of 8.9 million were practising Muslims and most of them had no links with such organisations. “It’s worrying and I’m disappointed with the government for adopting far-right ideas,” he said.

Rise reported in attacks against Muslims

Since a jihadist attack left four people dead in Vienna last November — the first to be carried out in Austria — a rise has been reported in the number of incidents in verbal and physical attacks against Muslims in the country. IGGÖ complained that “racism against Muslims is growing”.