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EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s mandatory military service work?

Despite its commitment to neutrality, Austria has conscription. Citizens need to participate in either military or civil service. Here's what you need to know.

Two soldiers in Austrian military uniforms perform exercises in the snow.
Austria still has mandatory military service. Here's what you need to know. Photo: ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

Austria is known for its military neutrality: since the 1950s, the country can’t join a military alliance, allow the establishment of foreign military bases within its borders or participate in a war. 

However, that doesn’t mean that Austria is a demilitarised country. On the contrary, it has its own Armed Forces.

They even participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations, with deployments in several countries. Austria is also a member of NATO’s Partnership of Peace (PfP) organisation, despite not being a NATO member.

EXPLAINED: Why isn’t Austria in NATO?

Austria might be military neutral, but it still has conscription, as military service is mandatory for some of its citizens – namely all men over the age of 18.

The Wehrpflicht, or military obligation, lasts until they turn 50, in special cases, until their 65th birthday.

Basic service

The Grundwehr­dienst is the basic service to the Austrian Federal Army. It lasts for six months, during which young men will receive basic military training.

Women can volunteer for the service. Recruits learn things such as the correct handling of equipment, finding their way around the terrain, and behaving in the barracks.

Before being summoned to the army, the men go through two days of physical and psychological evaluation, called Stellung, to determine whether they are fit for conscription.

In general, Austrian citizens receive a general summons on the year they turn 18. However, they can still be called for the initial presentation and examination until they turn 35, and even later, depending on circumstances. 

Besides not being fit for service, several exceptions exclude citizens from service, including if the men are in ongoing school or university education or other vocational preparation.

Employers can also request their workers to not be sent to military service.

Benefits and social assistance

There are a few benefits and assistance that people in the basic service can expect, including a monthly allowance and cash that add up to approximately €360 – which increases as with military rank. 

Conscripts can also receive family maintenance payments, housing allowance and paid for travel expenses, depending on their needs.

During basic military service, they can also request an Austrian Federal Army card that they can use to travel on the ÖBB Austrian railway service. 

Civil service

An alternative to mandatory military service in the civil service, or Zivildienst, that people who consciously object to the military can choose. While the military service lasts for six months, the Zivildienst will last nine months.

People who refuse to use gun violence and abstain from the Armed Forces need only to submit a civil service declaration. 

During this period, participants can be sent to perform services in rescue (according to the government, around 40% of the civil servants work in the sector), social assistance (30%), and elderly care (10%).

Civil servants can also be sent to work with civil protection, refugee care, hospitals, kindergarten, farming assistance, etc.

During the pandemic, many of the Austrians doing their civil service period were called to help with health services in vaccination centres and testing facilities. 

Employees assigned to the civilian service are protected against dismissal as long as the employer is informed immediately of the assignment. 

Dual citizenship and naturalisation

For dual or multiple citizenship Austrians, the obligation to participate in military service is subject to a series of agreements. 

Most of them are made to avoid people having to perform military service in several states, so, in general, young men might need to participate in mandatory service in the country where they are residents.

Here is a list of the current agreements Austria is a signatory of.

Austrian citizens who perform mandatory military service in another country where they are residents and citizens will not lose their Austrian citizenship.

However, if they go on voluntary military service for another country, they will lose Austrian citizenship.

In the case of mandatory military service abroad, an exemption from the obligation of service in Austria is possible. Still, an examination is carried out in individual cases.

This might also exempt naturalised citizens who have served abroad from service in Austria after they become Austrian citizens. 

In general, basic military service is mandatory until the 35th birthday.

That means that if an Austrian who lived abroad moves to the country before that date or a man naturalised Austrian before he is 35 years old, they will likely need to do the six-month military service or the nine-month civil service if they are eligible and do not acquire an exemption.

If you are an Austrian citizen who lives abroad and is subject to the military obligation, you need to register with the local Austrian representative authority, embassy or consulate.

In general, there is no service or evaluation for non-residents, but if the person later moves to Austria, he must report to the military command responsible for his place of residence within three weeks. 

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For members


How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge, or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Vienna.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

If you find yourself with a large piece of furniture or big household appliance that has seen its prime and is not bound to the trashcan, then you might be wondering where to dispose of them – legally, that is.

Even if it is not uncommon to see furniture or appliances next to the big trashcans often placed near households and apartment complexes, it is illegal to leave them there.

Different cities have different methods – some will even pick up trash at specific times and places. To know how your city deals with bulky waste (Sperrmüll), you can google “Sperrmüll + the name of your city”.

READ ALSO: Why does Vienna’s waste department have a helicopter and a military plane?

Vienna has several waste collection points where you can leave bulky waste, electrical appliances, hazardous waste (in household quantities) and other old goods for no charge.

The use of the Wiener Mistplätze is subject to certain quantity limits and requirements, but they are to avoid industrial use. Therefore, most households will have no problem with the limitations.

Here you can find several collection points in Vienna.

It is worth pointing out that delivery to those sites can only be made by cars with Viennese license plates, on foot or by bicycle. Furthermore, no trailers or company cars are allowed to leave trash at these collection points.

What can you bring to the collection centres?

This is the place to bring large sheets of plastic foil, bulky or large metal parts and electrical appliances, for example.

Additionally, you can bring small amounts of bulky waste, wood, styrofoam, large cardboard boxes, green waste and used tires to any waste collection centres.

Depending on what you are disposing of, you might need to go to the Rinter centre, one of the larger ones.

READ ALSO: Hasta la mista, baby? How to vote for your favourite Vienna trash can joke

The centres also have a separate division where it is possible to donate old items still in good condition, the so-called 48er-Tandler-Box.

Tableware, small furniture, electrical appliances, clothes, toys and other items can be reused and bought at a low price at the 48er-Tandler reuse shop.

Most centres are open only from Monday to Friday during business hours, but others are also available on Saturdays.

What to do if I don’t have a car?

If you don’t need a car but still need to dispose of a large appliance, the Viennese solution varies.

Some will take public transport with a couple of friends trying to help them carry an old sofa via the u-bahn, although that can get a little tough at peak hour. 

Alternatively, you can borrow or rent a vehicle to try and save costs.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

But Vienna City also has a service that will pick up the trash for a low fee – even if it is located in the attic, a basement or a courtyard.

It’s the Entrümpelungsdienst und Sperrmüllabfuhr der MA 48. You can also ask for the “dump service” when the city of Vienna brings a trough (the smallest can fit 12 cubic meters).

Once you fill it up, they will remove it and take it to the appropriate place.

Costs will depend on the amount of trash, the size of the appliance, and where in the household it is located.