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

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

Five Austrian regions relax their Covid rules slightly today. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Upper Austria comes out of lockdown

One region of Austria, Upper Austria, had almost an extra week of lockdown, but it ends today. 

Unlike many regions which had a staggered re-opening, Upper Austria re-opens non-essential retail, culture and sports, events, hotels and gastronomy at the same time.

And four regions re-open hotels and catering today

In Carinthia, Lower Austria, Salzburg and Styria, lockdown ended last weekend but hotels and gastronomy businesses remained closed. Now these sectors can re-open. 

Only Vienna has a little longer to wait, with hotels and gastronomy set to re-open only on December 20th.

Don’t forget: There’s an extra shopping day this weekend

Shops have been given a special exemption to Austria’s usually strict Sunday closing laws this weekend, in a bid to support businesses affected by the lockdown. This only applies to businesses that were closed during the lockdown such as those selling clothes, furniture, books, toys or homeware, but not to supermarkets or pharmacies for example.

If you’re doing your shopping in Vienna, two extra things to note: keep your receipt from any brick and mortar stores you go to this weekend because you can apply for free restaurant vouchers in a new scheme, and note that demonstrations and other public gatherings are only allowed from 6pm onwards this weekend, in a bid to stop the city centre getting too congested after a request from the Chamber of Commerce. A daytime ban on demonstrations is also being considered in Salzburg, ORF reports.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Austria?

In the first study of its kind in over 50 years, Statistics Austria says the answer is €494 per month in a two-adult household and €900 to raise a child in a single-parent household.

Austrian parliament votes in favour of new assisted dying law

A parliamentary majority voted in favour of Austria’s new planned regulation on assisted suicide on Thursday. This means that from 2022 onwards, people who are seriously or terminally ill and who want to make use of assisted suicide can draw up a death will, similar to the living will. The far-right Freedom Party was the only party to vote against the proposal.

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

Austria fails to agree on gambling reform, Austria blocks Bulgaria and Romania from Schengen, energy prices at record levels and more news from Austria on Friday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
  • Austria’s governing coalition fails to agree on gambling reform

In the government programme of 2020, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Greens had agreed on a project that has been considered highly necessary for years: a reform of the gambling sector. 

Among other things, an “efficient authority structure” was to be created, according to the programme. Since then, however, it has become clear that the ideas of the ÖVP and the Greens are irreconcilably far apart, the newspaper Der Standard reported.

They wanted to create an authority that could award gambling licenses. Currently, the Ministry of Finance has that prerogative, but since it also earns tax returns from the operators, there is a conflict of interest, the report said. 

Where do the coalition partners disagree, then? In player protection rules. The main point of contention is the question of how high the maximum possible losses, winnings or stakes in gambling may be in the future.

The Greens want to be far more restrictive than the ÖVP. Those familiar with the negotiations report that the Greens would demand a maximum stake of €0.20 for vending machines – far less than the ÖVP is prepared to concede. 

Currently, the maximum stake is €10. However, sources close to the ÖVP say that excessively strict rules would lead to gambling being pushed into illegality – which would in no way serve to protect gamblers.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are the rules around gambling in Austria?

  • What to expect from the ski season in Austria this winter

Skiers in Austria should expect to pay higher prices this winter as rising costs hit resorts. Many ski operators are also considering energy-saving actions. Here’s how expensive it could get and which Covid measures could return.

  • Austria vetoes Bulgaria and Romania joining Europe’s Schengen area

Austria vetoed EU members Romania and Bulgaria joining the passport-free Schengen area during a meeting of EU colleagues in Brussels on Thursday, as The Local reported.

“I think it is wrong that a system that does not work in many places should be enlarged”, he said.

Decisions on Schengen enlargement have to be taken unanimously.

Austria, which is experiencing a strong increase in asylum requests, fears that admitting Bulgaria and Romania would increase irregular immigration.

The meeting of EU interior ministers did approve Croatia joining Schengen, which currently encompasses 22 of the EU’s 27 member countries plus Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

READ ALSO: ‘A stupid prank’?: Why has Austria vetoed enlargement of Schengen area?

  • Germany expects more arrests after coup plot operation

German prosecutors on Thursday ordered that 23 people be held for questioning concerning the operation into a far-right group that allegedly wanted to overthrow the state and install a member of the former German royal family as the new national leader, as The Local Germany reported.

The group wanted to install Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss as the leader of a new state. The 71-year-old real estate developer is a descendant of the royal House of Reuss in Thuringia. The head of the aristocratic house is Heinrich XIV, who lives in Austria and disowned the alleged plot.

“Of course, this reflects catastrophically on the family,” Heinrich XIV told broadcaster MDR, speaking about his distant relative with whom he said he had not had contact for ten years.

“For 850 years, we were, I think, a tolerant, cosmopolitan royal house in East Thuringia, and now we are seen as terrorists and reactionaries all over the world, all the way to America. That’s quite terrible,” the Austrian resident added.

Among the 25 suspects arrested on Wednesday, there was a German citizen staying in Austria. Local media reported that he was detained in the Tyrolean ski resort of Kitzbühel. According to Krone, the suspect is a Munich celebrity chef. “He is the father-in-law of an even more famous Austrian sports star”, the website said.

READ ALSO: Five books to read to understand Austria

  • Energy prices at record level in October

Prices for household energy were 50 percent higher in October than a year earlier, according to the energy price index calculated by the Austrian Energy Agency. 

Compared to the previous month of September, energy for households was 1.6 percent more expensive. The inflation rate in October was eleven percent, compared to September this year, the consumer price index rose by one percent. 

The energy agency said that some calm has returned to the wholesale electricity and gas markets after a turbulent summer.

At the same time, many suppliers still announced further price increases. “Here, it seems that the price distortions of the last few months have not yet been fully passed on to all customers,” said Energy Agency Managing Director Franz Angerer, according to the press release. 

“In any case, the energy prices remain extremely high across all energy sources.”

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

  • Weather

Screenshot from ZAMG

Clouds will be widespread and intermittent rain and snow will spread from the south and east, Austria’s meteorologic institute ZAMG said.

In the south, the snow line will initially often be at low altitudes but rises to 500 to 1500m above sea level during the day. 

However, there will be hardly any precipitation on the northern side of the Alps, from Vorarlberg to the Tyrolean lowlands. Daytime highs are between 0C and 6C.

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].