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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

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

People hug in the sun in the city park in Vienna.
Enjoy the March sunshine today. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Health Minister to be replaced, according to reports

The Krone newspaper claims that Austria’s Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein is to be replaced. It says, according to its “well-informed circles” the Greens have been working on this plan for some time, and have even identified a candidate for his replacement – Johannes Rauch.

The paper says the 62-year-old Rauch is not “particularly enthusiastic” about getting the job, but has promised Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler he will take on the role as a gesture of friendship.

Mückstein’s likely resignation comes less than a year after taking over the top job from colleague Rudolph Anschober, who resigned in April 2021 due to exhaustion. 

‘15 months has felt like 15 years’: Why Austria’s health minister called it quits

Inflation hits record 5.9 percent

Inflation is hitting Austria hard, as drivers are already aware. Diesel now costs more than 1.50 euros per litre of diesel, while premium petrol is around 1.6 euros per litre. 

According to a flash estimate by Statistics Austria, inflation in Austria is likely to reach 5.9 percent in February compared to the same month last year.

At the beginning of the year, the inflation rate exceeded the five percent threshold for the first time since November 1984. The price of natural gas has reached a new record high in Europe and oil prices are also rocketing.

Austria offers support to refugees

As thousands more people flee Ukraine, the Austrian Agency for Care and Support Services (BBU) has created an online  platform to bring together people offering accommodation to refugees on social media.

Many people are offering private accommodation for incoming refugees from Ukraine on social networks. 

It is hard to know how many Ukrainian refugees are entering Austria. An “arrival hall” has been organised in Vienna and in Burgenland, the Nova Rock Hall has been converted into accommodation for arrivals. In the rest of Austria, people are collecting donations and transporting them across the border.

READ MORE: How Austria is preparing to accept Ukrainian refugees

OSCE employee dies in Ukraine 

The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has  lost  a Ukrainian employee. The woman died in the shelling of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday when she was trying to get supplies for her family, broadcaster ORF reports.

She was a member of the OSCE Monitoring Mission SMM – which monitors the ceasefire line between state troops and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The OSCE decided last Thursday to temporarily end its mission in the face of the Russian invasion and to evacuate its unarmed international team.

Oligarchs targeted by Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler

The Vice Chancellor of Austria has said he wants to target oligarchs in Austria with sanctions. Speaking to the Puls24 programme he said he would look at assets and property held by Russian oligarchs. The programme reports 650 Austrian companies have branches in Russia.

Kogler said he did not believe large Austrian businesses should be compensated for losses due to sanctions, as they had made “huge profits” through business with Russia in the past. However, he added small and medium sized businesses active in Ukraine could be treated more sympathetically. 

Russian Sberbank compensation will cost almost one billion

The Financial Market Authority (FMA) prohibited the Russian Sberbank Europe from continuing business operations on March 1st, meaning Austrian deposit insurance is now responsible for the deposits of its former bank customers.

READ MORE: Austria-based Russian bank declared insolvent due to sanctions

Around 35,000 customers held deposits totalling one billion euros at Sberbank Europe AG, based in Vienna, of which 913 million euros were secured, according to a press release from the FMA on Wednesday.

Broadcaster ORF reports that the general director of the Raiffeisenverband Salzburg, Heinz Konrad said: “This is a substantial loss that is then shared among all Austrian banks according to their share of the deposit business.”

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Austria's foreign minister predicts EU oil embargo in a few days, Red Cross criticises Austria for not meeting UN aid targets, horse-drawn carriages could disappear from Vienna and more news on Tuesday.

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

Austria’s foreign minister expects EU oil embargo decision ‘in next few days’

The EU has put its oil embargo of Russia on hold due to Hungary requesting billions of euros in exchange for its support. Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) has said he expects an agreement “in the next few days”.

A “certain need for discussion” is “very clear”, and not all states are equally badly affected, said Schallenberg, according to broadcaster ORF. He said the EU should appear united as “Russia is watching us”. 

Red Cross criticises Austria for not meeting UN targets for development spending

The Red Cross has criticised Austria’s federal government for not spending more on development aid. In addition, Austria has not decided its development programme for 2022-24, although this should have been in place by the end of 2021, broadcaster ORF reports.

Despite emergency aid to Ukraine of 42 million euros and the increase in the foreign disaster fund to 60 million euros, Austria is “still far away” from the UN target of spending 0.7 percent of its economic power on development cooperation. According to the Red Cross’s Secretary General Michael Opriesnig, Austria is currently at 0.31 percent of gross national income (GNI). 

‘Out of date’: Possible ban on Vienna’s horse drawn carriages 

The debate over Vienna’s ‘fiaker’ or horse drawn carriages, has begun again as temperatures in the capital have started to head above 30 degrees. Currently the horses are not allowed to work when the temperatures rise over 35 degrees, and there are plans to lower the upper temperature requirement to 30 degrees.

Animal protection minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), wants to ban the horse drawn carriages from the city, and told ORF’s Vienna Today programme that he thought the horse-drawn carriages in the city were “a bit out of date”.

Violence protection centres ask for right to exchange data without consent of client

A violence prevention centre in Salzburg, called “Jugend am Werk” is calling for the rules on data sharing to be changed after a 41-year-old stabbed his ex wife on Friday in Piesendorf (Pinzgau).

The man had been in contact with Jugend am Werk after his victim reported him, and he was banned from entering her home. The ban required him to take part in a mandatory six-hour violence prevention consultation and the 41-year-old had an initial interview at the advice centre in Zell am See on May 4th. 

The consultant had suggested the centre should take part in a a security police case conference to discuss the 41-year-old and had talked about it with the local police, however, as he did not consent to his data being released, it was not possible for the  victim protection institutions to meet to discuss his case, broadcaster ORF reports. 

Scheme to provide free period products is in high demand

A pilot scheme called Rote Box (red box) providing free tampons and pads in four locations in the Vienna Brigittenau district has reported much greater demand than expected for the sanitary products. The district of Vienna is one in which around 20 percent of girls are at risk of poverty. 

A total of 80,604 tampons and 94,960 pads were distributed via the boxes after being donated by a drugstore chain. The city is now examining whether and how the “Red Box” project can be continued, broadcaster ORF reports.

Work starts on Vienna’s controversial new city highway

After long  protests, at which protestors camped out for months, the construction of the controversial city highway in the Donaustadt district of Vienna has finally begun, broadcaster ORF reports. One protest camp still remains behind the Hirschstetten Gardens.

Excavators have started driving along the future route, while environmental activists are planning even more protests in the aim of stalling construction. The Lobau Bleibt protest website says further action is planned on May 25th.

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