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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

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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COST OF LIVING

Cost of living: Austria’s postal service announces prices increases

Prices in Austria continue to rise and, this time, mailing letters and parcels will become more expensive. Here is what you need to know.

Cost of living: Austria's postal service announces prices increases

Austria’s postal service Post said business is “difficult” due to “inflation and uncertainty in the energy market”, stating that the package volume has decreased while their operation costs went up.

The state company’s answer to the challenging scenario is to increase parcel prices, and the changes will be valid starting in October.

Starting on October 1st, prices for posting S letters will go up from €0.85 to €1, M letters from €1.35 to €1.40, S packages from €2.75 to €3 and M packages from €4.30 to €4.50.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: Why are petrol prices in Austria still so high?

“The first six months of 2022 posed major challenges for companies, especially in Europe”, Post said, stating that the “COVID-19 pandemic, its countermeasures and the resulting delays in the global value chain were the starting point for what is now a worldwide inflationary trend.”

“The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the price increases for important raw materials and energy sources. These conditions will continue in the second half of the year. There is also a risk that the energy market will remain difficult to predict and gas supplies in parts of Europe will not be secure.”

Rising inflation and staff shortages

Inflation has been rising in Austria, reaching 9.2% in July, with essential items becoming increasingly more expensive.

READ ALSO: Inflation at 9.2% in July: How to beat rising prices in Austria

So far, the wave of inflation has affected chiefly energy and food prices but has now also arrived in the gastronomy sector, with increasing costs in bars and restaurants across the country.

However, as fuel and energy prices soar, people in Austria will see increases in all sectors, including postage services.

Another major challenge in the Austrian economy is labour shortage – and Post is now having difficulty finding new employees, especially drivers and workers for its distribution centres.

READ ALSO: Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

“We have virtually full employment”, Post CEO Georg Pölzl told the daily Der Standard. He said that the company could immediately hire 1,000 people – if they were able to find the workers.

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