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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Every weekday, The Local brings you an English-language summary of the news you need to know in Austria.

A woman holds a poster saying
A woman holds a poster saying "we did not elect you" as anti-corona measures protestors demonstrate outside the Chancellery during the swearing-in yesterday of the new Chancellor. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Update from Vienna on post-lockdown steps

We’re expecting an update from the capital region today, a day before national and regional leaders meet to discuss the plan for Austria as a whole.

Vienna has had stricter rules than Austria’s other regions for some time, including implementing a 2G+ rule (proof of vaccination or recovery plus a negative PCR test) for bars and clubs shortly before the national lockdown, though this was only in place for a weekend. This is likely to remain in place after the lockdown ends.

Vienna cannot independently decide to lift lockdown, as federal states only have the power to impose measures beyond the ones that apply nationally and not to opt out of national ones. So we’ll have to wait a bit longer for confirmation on exactly what will re-open on Sunday.

Criticism over far-right politician spreading misinformation

A parliamentarian from the far-right Freedom Party, Dagmar Belakowitsch, falsely stated in a speech at the protests that Austria’s hospitals are full not with Covid patients but with people requiring treatment as a result of the vaccine. Austria’s medical association has said this is false and appealed to the public to get information regarding Covid from public health authorities. Since the start of the pandemic, over 60,000 people in Austria have required hospital treatment for Covid-19, compared to 1,360 who have been treated in hospital or had a hospital stay extended close to the time of their vaccination. Intensive care stations are currently occupied by 654 patients receiving treatment for Covid-19 and 769 patients receiving care for other reasons.

By November 27th, there had been 270 applications made under the law which gives compensation for damage caused by Covid-19 vaccines (the majority of which are still pending, so it is not confirmed if the vaccine directly caused any harm), while over 13 million vaccine doses had been administered. 

Vaccine sceptics deregister from digital health services

Speaking of misinformation, several thousand people have de-registered from digital health portal Elga, after rumours spread in anti-vaccine circles that this would help them avoid future fines under the vaccine mandate.

Speaking to broadcaster ORF, Elga’s managing director confirmed this is not the case as vaccination certificates are still recorded centrally, but it does mean losing access to things like getting a prescription over the phone.

We have a new chancellor

Austria’s new chancellor Karl Nehammer, a former soldier and communications advisor, was sworn in on Monday, along with several new cabinet members as the ruling People’s Party faces the fallout of a major corruption scandal.

Nehammer’s first act has been to conduct a cabinet reshuffle, sending his predecessor Alexander Schallenberg back to his previous post as foreign minister and appointing new finance, interior and education ministers. The new cabinet members were sworn in along with Nehammer.

ANALYSIS: How did Austrian politics get so chaotic?

Avalanche risk in large parts of Austria

Heavy snowfall across a lot of the country means a level 3 avalanche warning (on a five-point scale) is in place in Carinthia, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol and Vorarlberg. Winter sports fans in particular should exercise caution in the mountains. 

Public holiday tomorrow

December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is the conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

This means many employees have the day off work, and many shops and businesses are closed, but supermarkets are allowed to open between 10am and 6pm. Usually, the Billa and Penny Markt chains stay shut while Spar, Hofer and Lidl shops are open, sometimes with shorter hours than usual.

As for what we’re celebrating: Catholics believe Mary’s mother, Saint Anne, became pregnant in the usual, biological way, but that the conception was ‘immaculate’ because God intervened, absolving Mary of original sin.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Inquiry commission on Wien Energie begins, verdict on Leonie-case expected for today, province leaders meeting and more news from Austria on Friday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
  • Austria starts inquiry committee over Wien Energie

Starting on Friday at 10 am at the Vienna City Hall, the City Council’s investigative commission on the Wien Energie case will meet every two weeks.

On the initiative of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), it will investigate the events surrounding the dramatic financial needs of Wien Energie that became known in the summer. The commission can summon people to testify and request documents. 

They will focus on two issues. 

The first concerns the extent to which Mayor Michael Ludwig and City Finance Councillor Peter Hanke have exercised their ownership rights regarding Wien Energie, which is wholly owned by the city via Wiener Stadtwerke. Specifically, the commission wants to know whether the two SPÖ politicians reacted in time and appropriately to the price increases in the electricity markets in the summer. 

The second matter revolves around Ludwig’s emergency powers as head of the city, with which he granted Wien Energie loans totalling €1.4 billion. It is to be clarified whether this procedure was legally compliant and whether Ludwig should have informed committees such as the City Senate earlier.

READ ALSO: Why did Wien Energie ask for €6 billion from the Austrian government?

  • Austrian citizenship: Can you be rejected because of a driving offence?

Naturalisation processes may be on the rise in Austria, but citizenship is still hard to get, and any mistake could mean you miss out on the opportunity. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Verdict on the case of the death of 13-year old that shocked Austria expected on Friday

The court case about the killed 13-year-old, Leonie W., is coming to an end, with a verdict expected on Friday. 

Zubaidullah R. (24), Ibraulhaq A. (19) and Ali H. (20) allegedly mixed ecstasy tablets into a drink for Leonie W. and then raped her in June 2021, according to prosecutors. The girl did not survive. She died of a fatal triple overdose and by suffocation inside the apartment of one of the defendants in Vienna-Donaustadt.

The men all admitted to having had sexual intercourse with a minor. However, they claim it had been consensual.

The verdicts are expected on Friday. In case of a guilty verdict, Zubaidullah R. could face ten, 20 years or life as he was older than 21 at the time of the alleged crime. Ibraulhaq A. and Ali H. each face up to 20 years.

READ ALSO: Fall-Leonie: charges filed in case of death of a 13-year-old girl in Vienna

  • Province leaders to meet in Vienna

Vienna’s mayor – and provincial governor – Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), is hosting a conference with the provincial governors on Friday. 

At the meeting in Vienna’s City Hall, the heads of the provinces will discuss, among other things, fiscal matters, broadcaster ORF reported. They had already announced in advance that they wanted a bigger slice of the revenue shares in future. But the energy crisis is also a “central focus”.

“Rising energy prices and their consequences for the economy and society are among the greatest current challenges”, the provincial governors said in a joint statement on Thursday. 

The conference will, therefore, also discuss a motion calling on the federal government to present “as soon as possible” an energy protection umbrella for business and labour as well as all households to cushion the high energy costs for Austria’s companies.

READ ALSO: Vienna Energy Bonus: How to get a €200 payout

  • Weather

Screenshot from ZAMG

Dense clouds will cover the sky; in the south, there may be some sleet and snow at low altitudes, Austria’s meteorologic institute ZAMG said. 

The snow line will be between 500 and 900m above sea level in the west. In the afternoon, the snowfall will decrease in the south. In the northern half, it may continue to snow a little.

Towards evening the snowfall will stop almost everywhere. The wind will be mostly light in the east, partly moderate from northeast to southeast. Daytime highs are between 0C and 5C.

If you have any questions about life in Austria, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected].

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