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

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

A lighthouse on Danube Island
It's going to be sunny and cold today in Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Happy International Women’s Day

It’s international women’s day in Austria, and the weather is looking sunny. In honour of the date, Defence Minister Claudia Tanner (ÖVP) will visit female soldiers.

There will also be a “Take Back The Streets” rally in Vienna later, with demonstrations against sexism, transphobia and patriarchal violence.

READ MORE: Violence against women in the spotlight in Austria after horrific killings

Calls to delay Austria’s CO2 tax

Austria’s Chamber of Commerce (WKO) has called for Austria’s CO2 tax to be postponed until at least 2023. A tax of 30 euros per tonne of CO2 is planned to be introduced on July 1st. Revenues from the tax will be used to pay Austria’s climate bonuses.

Green Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler told broadcaster ORF that the ÖVP party, which governs Austria in coalition with the Greens, should not be scared off by the Chamber of Commerce. He said the Ukraine conflict meant it was even more important to bring about the transition to green energy.

ÖVP politician Karlheinz Kopf, while calling for a delay to the introduction of the tax, also said it was important to put a price on the environmental costs of greenhouse gas emissions. WKO President Harald Mahrer,  however, argued that the prices are already high and that market mechanisms are taking effect.

Vice Chancellor also supports Austria’s neutrality

As The Local reported on Monday, Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) has spoken out to re-affirm Austria’s commitment to neutrality in international affairs amid the decision to support European Union sanctions on Russia.

The Green Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler has also committed to Austria’s neutrality. Speaking on Austria’s ZIB2 programme he said its neutrality was “not obsolete” and did not rule out Austria’s participation in peacekeeping measures.

READ MORE: Nehammer on Russian sanctions: ‘Austria is and will remain neutral’

New Health Minister to be sworn in

Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen will swear in the new Social and Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) on Tuesday morning. The signing in was nearly delayed after Van der Bellen had contact with a person who later tested positive for Covid-19.

Following three negative tests, the appointment will go ahead as planned at eleven o’clock. The previous health minister, Wolfgang Mückstein, resigned after saying he was exhausted and tired of living with constant threats. 

READ MORE: Austria health minster quits citing exhaustion and threats

Ex-foreign minister refuses to give up Russian oil job

Austria’s ex-Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (FPÖ) does not want to give up her position on the supervisory board of the Russian state oil company Rosneft, she told the German TV channel RTL on Monday.

In the interview Kneissl said she was  a “political refugee who had had to leave Austria “due to the many hostilities” she encountered due to her closeness to Vladimir Putin , broadcaster ORF reports. The ex-Minister made headlines when Putin attended her wedding in 2018.

By contrast,  ex-Chancellor Wolfgang Schlüssel (ÖVP) announced he would stop working on the supervisory board of the Russian oil company Lukoil on Friday following criticism, the broadcaster reported. 

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For members


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.

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

Debate over reducing Austria’s speed limits on roads

As The Local reported on Tuesday, a debate is currently underway in Austria over whether to reduce the speed limit on motorways, dual carriages and other roads to reduce the need for Russian oil and gas.

A speed limit of 100 km/h is proposed on motorways and dual carriageways instead of 130 km/h. On open roads this could be reduced from 100 km/h to 80 km/h.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria

The Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club (ÖAMTC) says the effect would only  reduce one to three percent of domestic fuel consumption, based on data from the Vienna University of Technology.

However the environmentalist group GLOBAL 2000 says driving at  100 km/h uses ten percent less fuel than going at 130 km/h, the Kronen Zeitung newspaper reports.   

Austria in top three of Covid-19 infections in Europe

More than 300,000 people were infected with the Covid-19 in the past week in Austria – giving the Alpine state one of the highest rates of infection in Europe.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), only Iceland and Liechtenstein had a higher incidence of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a comparison of 46 European countries.

However, some European countries have low rates of testing in comparison to Austria, broadcaster ORF noted. 

The statistics portal “Our World in Data” shows Austria has overtaken France in terms of Covid-19 hospitalisations. Austria had 318 patients per million inhabitants in hospital for Covid-19 on March 14th. Only Latvia with 566 hospitalised patients per million inhabitants, Slovakia (477), Estonia (473) and Bulgaria (460) are ahead of Austria in terms of hospital numbers.

Covid-19: Austria among highest hospitalisation rates in Europe

Criticism of change to quarantine and testing regulations

There has been criticism of proposed changes to Austria’s quarantine and testing rules, with quarantine times being reduced for contacts of infected people who are unvaccinated and tests limited in number from April.

A member of the scientific advisory group GECKO Gerry Foitik  said some  “decisions” had been made “politically”. The ÖGB trade union described the government’s course as “irresponsible”. 

Vienna’s mayor Michael Ludwig, who is in the opposition SPÖ party, also criticised the decisions. Discussions are in place to see if Vienna can lift these measures in line with the rest of Austria. 

READ MORE: Free Covid-19 tests to be limited in Austria from April

Vienna unveils energy support package

Vienna will pay 200 euros to households on low incomes to combat energy price increases. The rise in fuel prices means on average people in the capital are paying an extra 500 euros for energy. The payments will go to recipients of housing assistance, the unemployed, people who receive minimum income and pensioners with a minimum pension.

The scheme will cost 50 million euros. A further 26 million euros has been set aside to help households update their heating and electricity systems to remove “energy guzzlers”.

There will also be subsidies available for green energy initiatives such as solar panels, broadcaster ORF reports. 

EXPLAINED: How to claim your €200 voucher for electronics repair in Austria

Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees start school in Vienna

Vienna has announced it has already offered 800 refugee children from Ukraine a place at school, where they will get free school meals. The city said it was looking for native Ukrainian speakers to help the children settle into Austria. 

Ukraine conflict: Would NATO protect non-member Austria?