Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

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

Austria fans celebrate after the UEFA EURO 2020 Group C football match between Austria and North Macedonia (Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / POOL / AFP)
Austria fans celebrate after the UEFA EURO 2020 Group C football match between Austria and North Macedonia (Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / POOL / AFP)

First victory for Austrian team

The Austrian national team scored their first victory in a European football championship on Sunday.

Team boss Franco Foda’s team won their opening game against North Macedonia in Bucharest 3-1.

Austria will play the Netherlands on Thursday.

READ MORE: Where can I watch Austria’s Euro 2020 matches in Vienna?

Family homes being replaced by tourist properties in Salzburg

Family homes are being sold and replaced by properties for tourists and investors in the  in the Salzburg Gebirgsgau region, according to broadcaster ORF.

It reports people living there say their homeland is being “sold off” say locals can no longer afford houses in the region due to spiralling land prices. The broadcaster reports in Kaprun, building land now costs between 800 and 1,200 euros per square meter.

Housing in Austria: Where are prices steady – and where are they on the rise?

Delta variant in Vienna

There are at least 12 cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus in Vienna, according to Andreas Huber from the city’s crisis management team speaking to “Vienna today”.

The delta variant is a mutation which is considered to be significantly more contagious than other variants. There are also currently 19 further active suspected cases, said Huber. 

Seven day incidence at 22

The seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 22. Vienna (34.2) and Tyrol (32.2) currently have a value over 30. Salzburg is the only federal state with a value below 10.0 (9.7).

Petition against cash limit

Austria is pushing back against European Central Bank proposals to create a Europe-wide upper limit for cash payments.  A referendum of 73,000 signatures in Austria shows a clear preference for no upper limits on cash sums, backed by Green and ÖVP politicians, Der Standard reports.

READ MORE: Why is cash so important for Austrians?

Easier path to citizenship rejected by ruling ÖVP 

The ruling Austrian ÖVP  party has again rejected the SPÖ proposal to offer a legal claim to citizenship after six years of legal residence, with party boss August Wöginger attacking left-wing parties for wanting “to change the political majority in the country by means of mass naturalisations”, Die Presse newspaper reports.

Vaccination gathers pace in universities

Vaccination programs are under for universities in Austria now, though programmes vary from state to state. While the university employees in Vienna, Salzburg and Upper Austria were able to register for company vaccinations, there is no prioritisation for those in Styria and Tyrol.

In Upper Austria, a separate vaccination line was set up last week at the University of Linz, where not only university members but also employees of all other universities in the state could be vaccinated. At the University of Vienna, almost half of those registered have already received their first jab.

EU commissioner criticises Austria’s plans to cut subsidies for some citizens

EU Democracy and Demography Commissioner Dubravka Suica has criticised Austria’s plans to cut subsidies for EU citizens who work in Austria while their children live elsewhere, calling it “not fair”, in an interview with the Wiener Zeitung newspaper.

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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Austria needs to 'wake up' in terms of neutrality, kindergarten headscarf ban overturned and more news on Friday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Former foreign minister says Austria needs to examine its security policy 

The former Austrian ÖVP Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik has given a speech calling for Austria to look again at its security policy in the light of the debate over neutrality. “Austrian security policy has been dormant for almost a quarter of a century. We cannot afford to sleep for decades,” said Plassnik, according to broadcaster ORF, speaking at the Medienzentrum Ausseerland conference in Grundlsee organized by the Association of Foreign Press.

She said it was time for an update of the security policy, which is now ten years old, and to carry out a “careful, impartial and EU-compliant current risk analysis”. Plassnik suggested an “options report” should be carried out in 2022. This has been attempted before in 1998, but failed because Austria’s SPÖ party did not want to examine NATO membership at the time.

Following the decision of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, 23 EU countries now belong to the North Atlantic Defense Alliance. Only Ireland, Malta, Cyprus and Austria remain outside.

Plassnik called for debate, saying Austria was a “stowaway” in terms of security policy, in which its neighbors, the NATO members, paid the insurance policy. She added while Austrians may “carry neutrality in their hearts” it was important not to lose their heads. 

READ MORE: ‘No country is an island’: Is it time for Austria to abandon its neutrality policy?

No more headscarf ban in Austrian kindergartens

The headscarf ban in Austria’s kindergartens has been repealed. The measure will no longer be included in the new 15a agreement between the federal and state governments, broadcaster ORF reports. A law banning headscarves in Austrian schools, introduced under the previous ÖVP-FPÖ coalition government was overturned previously because it was found not to be compatible with Austria’s federal constitution. However, state laws mean in kindergartens, the ban is still in force, except in Salzburg and Tyrol. The constitutional court said in a statement that these laws were probably also unconstitutional

 A new 15a agreement is currently being negotiated between the federal and state governments, as the current regulation expires at the end of August. The details will be revealed later today (Friday). It is expected the government will announce payments of a  “kindergarten billion” distributed over the next five years. This will mean Austria’s federal states will receive money to expand their offer in the compulsory kindergarten year before school, and to give better language support. The agreement is already drawing criticism for not including enough quality criteria around group sizes or care. 

Virologist calms fears over monkey pox in Austria

The virologist Norbert Nowotny has sought to reassure people in Austria over the recent outbreaks of monkey pox which have been seen around the globe, in an interview with Puls 24

So far there have been no cases in Austria, but the virologist said it was possible there would be one or two imported cases. For people with a healthy immune system monkey pox was “no big deal” he said. However in immunocompromised people, the infection can be more severe.

Gewessler calls for Austria to adapt “circular economy”

Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s Green Minister for the Environment is working on a strategy for a circular economy, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing and recycling existing materials and products rather than buying new ones. She said repairs were an important factor to allow Austria to become climate-neutral by 2050 and operate sustainably. In order for long-lasting devices and repairs to be better established on the market, many other coordinated measures are needed in addition to the new repair bonus – as is the case for the entire strategy itself, which could be completed by June.

READ MORE: Repair bonus: How to get money back when electrical items break in Austria

Law changes to give more support to displaced people from Ukraine

Austria’s laws will change to give more support for people displaced from Ukraine, despite the ‘no’ votes of the FPÖ. Ukrainians have now been included in an Integration Act, giving them access to German and orientation courses. It should become easier for Ukrainians to enter the labour market, and have their educational qualifications and professional qualifications recognised, broadcaster ORF reports.

European parliament votes in favour of sanctions against Austria’s former foreign minister

The European Parliament voted by a large majority in favor of sanctions against politicians and Europeans who draw large amounts of money from Russia on Thursday, naming Austria’s  former FPÖ Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl along with Germany’s ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. 

The text also mentioned Austria’s former Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel (ÖVP), noting he had “recently resigned” from his office in a Russian company in contrast to politicians such as Kneissl, broadcaster ORF reports.

Payments for Russian gas can be made in roubles, according to ‘EU circles’ 

According to information from EU Commission circles, gas importers such as Austria are also allowed to open a rouble account with the Russian Gazprombank as long as they pay their bills in the agreed currencies, euros or dollars, to another account. Commission officials clarified on Thursday that this would be in line with EU sanctions. The exchange of western currencies into roubles would then have to be carried out via the second account on the Russian side.

The commission recommended states should not set up rouble accounts if possible, but this recommendation has no legal consequences, broadcaster ORF reports. 

At the end of April, Austria’s ÖVP Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said that it was “fake news from Russian propaganda” that states such as Austria were willing to pay for the gas in roubles and insisted Austria’s energy company, OMV, would continue to pay for gas deliveries from Russia in euros. The Polish politician and former EU Council President Donald Tusk then accused Austria and Germany of having entered the “rouble zone”.

 The Russian energy company Gazprom has halted its gas  supplies to Poland and Bulgaria since they refused to pay for their gas in roubles.