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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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.

Demonstrators hold a placard reading
People in Vienna protested against Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Black day for Europe 

Austria’s president Alexander Van der Bellen has called Russian attacks on Ukraine a “black day for Europe” and called for peace, in a television broadcast on Thursday night. Van der Bellen said Austria’s neutrality did not mean the country should bury its head in the sand, and said Vienna was available as a neutral place of negotiation. He said this could be possible within the framework of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Federal President concluded his speech in Russian and Ukrainian with the words: “We all want to live together in peace!”

War ‘not far from Austria’

Speaking at the EU summit in Brussels, Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer said the war was “not far from Austria”, the Krone newspaper reports. He said Austria supported EU plans for sanctions and said there could be changes for Russian oligarchs in Austria. He also said sanctions for Belarus were are under discussion. The regime of ruler Alexander Lukashenko made a significant contribution to the escalation by allowing Russian troops to be stationed there, according to Nehammer. 

Gas from Russia still flowing into Austria

Despite the invasion of Ukraine, Russia is currently supplying gas to Austria, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) said on Thursday after a meeting with experts from the Energy Agency and the ministry. Austria has enough gas reserves to last until the end of April in an average winter, and until the March in an unusually cold winter, she said. 

Broadcaster ORF reports gas storage facilities in Austria are currently only 18 percent full  – the lowest level in the EU. Gewessler now wants to introduce a stockpiling law and a renewable heat law by the summer. The storage law must ensure that there are higher gas reserves in Austria, said the energy minister in Austria’s ZIB2 programme.

READ MORE: How Austria could be impacted by the Ukraine crisis

Austria’s former Chancellor leaves job on board of Russian state railway

The former Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has left his job on the board of the Russian state railway (RZD), in the light of the war in Ukraine. Kern told Der Standard newspaper that this had not been a lobbying or political role, but he was employed as an industry expert. However, he resigned upon learning RZD had become part of the war logistics. Other former Austrian politicians continue to enjoy close links with Russia, the paper reports. 

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl and Russian President Vladimir Putin dance during her wedding.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl and Russian President Vladimir Putin dance during her wedding in 2018 in Styria, Austria. (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik / AFP)

Former Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who caused headlines when Vladimir Putin attended her wedding as a guest of honour in 2018, now works with the state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today (RT) from her home in southern France, the paper reports. Wolfgang Schüssel, formerly a ÖVP head of government,  will continue to sit on the board of the Russian oil company Lukoil. Schüssel told Der Standard that there were no sanctions in place against Lukoil.  

Cost of living payments announced

Austria’s National Council has announced one-off payments which will ease the current cost of living crisis for certain financially vulnerable groups. At the end of April, pensioners on minimum incomes, long-term recipients of sickness and rehabilitation benefits, the unemployed and recipients of unemployment assistance will receive 150 euros, households that receive minimum income or social assistance and students with study grants will receive 300 euros.

For retired people receiving supplementary allowances, there will be two payments of 150 euros.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

No more '3G' to enter Austria, swimming lakes warm up, compulsory vaccination debate returns and more news on Monday.

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

No more testing or proof of vaccination to come into Austria

From today (Monday 16 May), all testing/vaccination requirements to enter Austria will be removed. It is possible to come to Austria from all countries in the world without showing a negative test or proof of vaccination.

A new entry regulation was published last week  by the Ministry of Health. The cancellation of entry checks was justified by the current epidemiological situation.

There is still the possibility for countries to be classed as virus variant areas, however at present no country is currently on the list of these areas. Should a new virus variant emerge, the obligation to test, register and quarantine could be quickly imposed again, broadcaster ORF reports.

Austria’s lakes warm up for swimming

Warm temperatures of over 30 degrees in May mean that Austria’s swimming lakes are ready for use, with temperatures exceeding the 20-degree mark in the Alte Donau in Vienna, the Aubad Tulln and the Stubenbergsee in Styria. Some Carinthian lakes are already at 19 degrees, such as Lake Faak and Lake Pressegger, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

Nehammer unanimously elected leader of the ÖVP

As The Local reported at the weekend, Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer has been formally elected leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) with 100 percent of the vote. 

The heads of the ÖVP traditionally tend to get high results in their first election as chairman. Kurz was elected party leader in 2017 with 98.7 percent of the vote. However, there has never been a 100 percent result in a first-time election until now.

READ MORE: Austria’s Nehammer formally elected party leader in unanimous vote

Compulsory vaccination law could come into force automatically in June

An ordinance suspending Austria’s compulsory vaccination law will expire at the end of May, making it possible in theory that random penalties for remaining unvaccinated could be put in place at the start of June. 

The law  was introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. Before a single person was fined, the Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.

To create a new ordinance or extend the existing one stopping people from being fined, Rauch must await  the report of the vaccination commission.

This will assess from a medical and legal point of view whether the Vaccination Act is suitable and useful. In a previous report of the commission, it said there were arguments for and against mandatory vaccination for those who were completely unvaccinated.

Der Standard reports there is little political support for compulsory vaccination and says there are still technical problems regarding automated fines. According to the Ministry of Health, the infrastructure should be completed in June.

READ MORE:

Car reduction scheme stalls 
A plan to significantly reduce traffic in Vienna’s city centre will probably not be implemented as planned in 2022. Vienna wanted to set up surveillance cameras limiting access to the city’s First District by car to residents.

At present, around 50,000 cars are registered driving in and out of the historic centre every working day. 

Der Standard newspaper reports that it has information that the new regulation will not come into force this year as planned. The necessary legislation has not been passed and there are concerns about data protection. 

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