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

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

A wall behind the Soviet War Memorial (that commemorates the Soviet soldiers who were killed in the battle for Vienna during WWII) is painted in Ukrainian national colours
A wall behind the Soviet War Memorial (that commemorates the Soviet soldiers who were killed in the battle for Vienna during WWII) is painted in Ukrainian national colours. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austria’s leaders broadcast messages of solidarity with Ukraine

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen have broadcast statements expressing solidarity with Ukraine, which will also be shown on Ukrainian television.

The Federal President said: “We are deeply affected by the injustice that is being done to you in front of the eyes of the world,” while the Chancellor vowed to make sure “that Russia’s violations of international law do not go unanswered.”

The statements went live this morning at 07:00 CET. 

Viennese paint Russian memorial wall in Ukrainian colours

A wall at Vienna’s monument to Russians killed in World War II has been painted in Ukrainian national colours. 

The wall next to the ‘Heroes Monument of the Red Army’ at Schwarzenbergplatz was painted in yellow and blue on Tuesday as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

UPDATED: How Austria could be impacted by the war in Ukraine

The police, who have kept a presence at the memorial in recent days, told Austrian media they had no reason to intervene to prevent the painting. 

The painting was completed by those associated with the Palais Schwarzenberg. 

The Russian embassy in Vienna, which is headquartered close to the monument, posted about the painting on social media, taking a generous interpretation of the painting in saying it was intended as a reminder of the Russians and Ukrainians who died fighting the Nazis in World War II. 

Germany removes all countries – including Austria – from “high risk” list

From Thursday no country will be considered by Germany to be a Covid-19 “high risk” area. This also applies to Austria, which has been on the German list of high-risk areas since January 16th.

The regulation comes into force on Thursday at midnight, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Pressure growing on former Austrian Chancellor to rethink role at  Russian oil firm.

Pressure is growing on former Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel to rethink his supervisory board position in the Russian oil company Lukoil, broadcaster ORF reports.

Schüssel’s spokesperson Heidi Glück defended his role last week in Austria’s ZIB programme, pointing out Lukoil is not a state-owned company, but is listed on the London Stock Exchange. National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) also agreed with this point of view at the weekend.

Tyrol’s governor Günther Platter (ÖVP), who formerly served as Minister of Defence under Schüssel, said it was a matter for the federal government.

However, the Austrian opposition parties SPÖ and NEOS have both called on Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) to persuade him to give up his place on the board, saying it is about Austria’s reputation. 

No great rush for Novavax jab

Austrians are not rushing to be vaccinated with Novavax, the protein subunit or “dead” vaccine which became available in Vienna on Tuesday.  According to the Ministry of Health, only eight people in Austria have been vaccinated with Novavax since the weekend, broadcaster ORF reports. In Vienna, a total of 8,096 people had pre-registered for a Novavax vaccination. Of those, 1,133 had made an appointment to receive the jab. Austria has ordered 3.1 million doses of the vaccine.  Vaccination with Novavax will start this week in most federal states.

READ MORE: When will the Novovax vaccine be available in Austria?

New corruption inquiries begin

A new U-Committee investigating corruption allegations against the People’s Party (ÖVP) will start today (Wednesday) with Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer. After Nehammer, the investor and entrepreneur Alexander Schütz will be interviewed.

The U-Committee will look into the federal government’s spending on advertising, which rose dramatically under former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. It will then look into how appointments were made to posts in the state investment company Öbag.

The committee will then turn to possible government influence on the economic and corruption prosecutor’s office (WKStA) and conflicts in the judiciary are to be examined. Finally, the selection of personnel for state-owned companies by the ÖVP party will be examined by the opposition left wing SPÖ, right wing FPÖ and liberal Neos parties.


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For members


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

More thunderstorms, no recession expected in Austria, Covid infections increase and more news from Austria on Thursday.

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

Covid-19 infection risk increases

Austria’s Covid traffic light commission has increased the risk rating of all federal states in Austria, with no states currently designated as “low risk”. The states of Vienna and Burgenland, both governed by the opposition SPÖ party, have now been designated orange or high risk level. However, this assessment should be treated with caution, as the commission no longer calculates the risk factor taking into account the number of tests carried out. Vienna and Burgenland test the most, and have the highest numbers of infections recorded. 

Monitoring of sewage shows the highest rate of infection is currently in Lower Austria, which remains in the yellow or medium risk zone, along with all the other federal states. 

Third night of storms in a row

For the third night in succession, violent storms hit Austria. Fire brigades were out in Upper Austria in the Steyr and Kirchdorf region and parts of the Mühlviertel. The cleanup in Carinthia continues, with the army using heavy equipment to remove rock from the Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach areas following mudslides. However, Tamsweg in Salzburg’s Lunga was spared from major damage to its buildings following flooding.

READ MORE: One dead, one missing in Austrian landslides

Austria unlikely to enter recession this year

Austria is not likely to enter a recession unless gas supplies from Russia stop coming into the country, the chief economist at Unicredit Bank Austria, Stefan Bruckbauer, predicts. This would not only paralyse large parts of industrial production, but would also drive up gas prices and general inflation. He told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper he does not want to rule out stagnation for the second half of the year. The Euro area is also not predicted to enter recession, according to a recent European Central Bank (ECB) survey of 29 economists. Economic experts at the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) expect GDP growth of 3.8 percent in Austria for this year and 1.9 percent for the following year.

READ MORE: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Zelensky and George Clooney to speak at  4Gamechangers Festival

The ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address an audience in Vienna live tonight at the 4Gamechangers Festival along with Austria’s  Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). The performance can be seen on TV on ORF III and in ORF’s  live stream.

After Zelensky was not invited to speak in Parliament, it would be his first public live appearance in Austria since the beginning of the war.

The Hollywood star and human rights activist George Clooney is also a guest at the  4Gamechangers Festival. In the late afternoon he will speak on the future of human rights, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: Explained: Why Austria won’t allow Ukraine’s Zelensky to speak before parliament

A Biedermeier house in Vienna is to be destroyed for economic reasons

A Biedermeier house in the seventh district  Vienna dating back to 1803/4 is to be destroyed under a building code called the “economic readiness for demolition”. This means if the costs of renovating a building  cannot be covered by the income from the property after renovation, it can be knocked down. The Biedermeier house together with the adjoining buildings at Kaiserstraße 25-29, forms part of an old town which  has been marked as a protection zone, and is under a monument protection law dating back to 1973.

Older buildings in Vienna have a rental cap, which means it is easier for developers to make money by destroying them and building a new larger building with more floors, which will not be subject to the rent rules. It also means there is no need to carry out costly renovations on the facade. Vienna’s Monument Protection Initiative is calling for the abolition of “economic demolition maturity” and thus an end to such promotion of demolition and new construction, broadcaster ORF reports. It warns that if this is not done, Vienna could lose most of its historic architecture. 

Charities are running out of money to help Ukrainian refugees

The charity Volkshilfe,  which issues supermarket vouchers to Ukrainian refugees, says donations have plummeted and it will no longer be able to help people buy food. Refugees currently receive six euros a day from basic services, which is not enough, charities say. Three weeks ago, Austria’s Council of Ministers decided to increase the allowance, but this has yet to be  implemented. The subsistence allowance is to be increased from 215 to 260 euros: for each refugee that would mean around two euros more per day for groceries, broadcaster ORF reports.