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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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.

Women walking in the Prater
It could reach 10 degrees today in Austria and it's expected to be sunny too. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Compulsory vaccination decision today

Please note: The decision to suspend the vaccine mandate has been made. Click here for coverage. 

The law on compulsory vaccination is set to come into effect in Austria on March 16th – next Wednesday. In theory, unvaccinated people could be fined by police if they do not get a jab after this date.

However, the government has set up a  commission to evaluate compulsory vaccination in Austria.

This commission has now finished its report and sent it to the Federal Government and National Council. Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) and Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler (ÖVP) will announce the next steps later today.

The report will assess if the implementation of compulsory vaccination is justified from a legal and medical point of view. 

Speaking on Tuesday Rauch emphasised that he wanted to take: “as many measures as necessary and as few as possible”.

He also wanted the support of the majority of the population.The Kronen Zeitung newspaper commented after the speech that “probably the pause button will be pressed on compulsory vaccination.”  

READ MORE: 

Petrol and diesel costs soar in Austria

The cost of diesel reached the cost of two euros a litre in Austria for the first time on Tuesday morning, putting the squeeze on millions of drivers in the Alpine state. According to the ÖAMTC motorists’ club, on Tuesday morning at a petrol station in Tyrol diesel was on sale for €2.099.

Eurosuper also cost €2.099  and the premium brand Ultimate €2.219 euros per litre.By Tuesday afternoon it had slipped back down to between around €1.50 and €1.99 per litre. 

So-called tank tourism is on the rise once more. Hungary, which introduced a price cap on fuel in November, is cheaper for petrol than the nearby Austrian state of Burgenland.

However, Swiss and German drivers are crossing into Austria to take advantage of the cheaper petrol prices, broadcaster ORF reports. Eurosuper is also cheaper in Austria than in Slovakia and Italy, but more expensive than Slovenia and the Czech Republic. 

READ MORE: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

Austria’s government discusses fuel, neutrality and increased military spending

Austria’s government met in a special council on Tuesday and re-affirmed Austria’s neutrality in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Both Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) called for further sanctions against Russia and stressed the need for a faster energy transition to renewable energy.

However, while this is underway, Nehammer has been visiting the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to explore other energy options. The Chancellor also said Austria would spend more on security and military national defence. 

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

Chamber of Commerce demands apology from Vice Chancellor 

The Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ) boss Harald Mahrer has demanded an apology from Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) after he criticised the chamber.

In Monday’s ZIB2 programme, Kogler accused the Chamber of Commerce of being partly responsible for Austria’s dependence on oil and gas from Russia and of having rolled out “a red carpet with a trail of slime” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

No mobile phones in pensioner coffee house

The Vollpension coffee house in Wieden is opening up after closing for 105 days due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and will celebrate its opening by encouraging people to put away their mobile phones.

People who visit the cafe, which is famously staffed by Viennese grandmas and grandpas, must lock their phones in cages to receive a 10 percent discount. 

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Inflation at 7.2 percent, Austria tries to reduce dependence on Russian gas and more news on Thursday.

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

Inflation rose to 7.2 percent in April

Inflation in Austria has continued to accelerate. According to Statistics Austria, the inflation rate in April was 7.2 percent – ​​the last time there was such a high inflation rate was in October 1981. Expenditure on transport and housing accounted for three-fifths of inflation. Compared to the previous month of March, the price level rose by 0.4 percent. “In addition to fuel and energy products, rising food prices are currently also responsible for the rise in inflation,” said Statistics Austria Director General Tobias Thomas on Wednesday.

READ MORE: 

Austria plans to reduce dependence on Russian gas by 10 percent

Austria is to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by ten percent (taking it to 70 percent) by connecting the Haidach gas storage facility in Salzburg to the Austrian gas network before the end of this year. This  strategic gas reserve, which previously served Bavaria in nearby Germany, is to be increased by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This will cover the gas consumption of two winter months, broadcaster ORF

The additional gas volume of the strategic reserve should come from non-Russian sources, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) has promised. 

In addition, the National Council passed a regulation on Thursday allowing the state to commission suppliers with the provision and storage of natural gas. Industrial companies that store gas are to be given collateral. They should also be able to dispose of their gas reserves themselves in the event of a crisis. Only when system stability requires it does the state access these reserves in exchange for compensation.

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

Labour Chamber raises concerns that a third of Viennese adults do not have Austrian citizenship

Austria’s Labour Chamber (Arbeitkammer) has pointed out many people working and living in Vienna are excluded from the democratic process, because they are not Austrian citizens. In a thread on Twitter, the organisation noted that 30 percent of Viennese people over 16 do not have Austrian citizenship, including many young people who were born in Austria. In Austria, if your parents are not Austrian, you must submit proof you have lived legally in Austria for five years and have been resident for 10 years, according to the Chamber. You must also prove that your net income (after bills, housing costs and loan repayments) is above €1,030.49. The chamber points out only a third of Austrians themselves meet these stringent requirements. 

READ MORE:

Warnings over large numbers of train passengers on upcoming public holidays 

Austria’s train company ÖBB is warning “very large number of passengers” are expected to use the railways around the forthcoming holidays of Ascension Day, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. It says it has expanded its capacities as much as possible and additional staff have been deployed, but warns if too many passengers board trains this could lead to the train journey being interrupted “for safety reasons” in “exceptional cases” and passengers without a seat or reservation having to leave the train, according to ÖBB. ORF reports the company recommends making a reservation before travel, especially on the most popular connections – even if you have a climate ticket which offers unlimited annual train travel in Austria. 

Bavaria clashes with Tyrol

Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) has called on EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to initiate infringement proceedings against the Republic of Austria. He claims checks made by Austria in Tyrol before trucks can use the Brenner Pass and the practice of ​​Blockabfertigung (block handling) trucks are causing systematic traffic problems in Bavaria and called for talks in Brussels. Tyrol’s governor Günther Platter (ÖVP) said this demand was “insane”.

Broadcaster ORF reports that there are fears that Munich will also be affected by the same issues as the state of Salzburg is now also examining similar solutions at the Walserberg border crossing. Bernreiter wrote to the President of the Commission to say a solution must finally be found for Alpine transit traffic,: “Residents and truck drivers have been suffering from traffic congestion for far too long.” The problem must be “solved constructively and together”.

Calls to sanction Austria’s former foreign minister who danced with Putin at her wedding

German MEPs have called on the EU Council to sanction Austria’s former foreign minister Karin Kneissl (FPÖ), who notoriously danced with Vladimir Putin at her wedding in 2018. Putin also gave her sapphire earrings worth €50,000 as a wedding gift. The Austrian journalist Armin Wolf told the ZIB programme sanctions could be put in place today (Thursday).

Vienna launched campaign against flushing rubbish down the toilet 

Vienna has launched a campaign to stop people throwing cooking oil and wet wipes down the toilet, after revealing around 20 tonnes of “solids” are removed by the municipal sewage treatment plant in Simmering..

A website provides information about the correct disposal methods for all types of waste. With a “rinse”, users can test their knowledge of what is allowed in the toilet and what is not. A song, performed by five “stool gang” characters, tackles the subject in an easily accessible way and will be used on the radio and in social networks. It will also be shown on adverts in restaurant toilets.  Pouring cooking oil down the sink leads to rats and fatbergs, the city pointed out.

Restaurants and Inns in Vienna may have to put their prices up by up to 20 percent

People wishing to go to Vienna’s inns and restaurants will face bills which are up to 20 percent higher by the end of the year due to increased energy and food prices, the  Vienna Chamber of Commerce has said. Peter Dobcak, chairman of the specialist group for gastronomy in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce told Wien Heute (Vienna Today) on Wednesday that the industry was “torn” because it wanted to reduce the burden on people suffering due to high energy prices, but at the same time, had to keep businesses afloat.

The restaurateur Hans Stöckl, who runs the Gasthaus Nestroy in the second district, said he was struggling with the skyrocketing electricity prices, telling ORF that each months he faced additional costs of up to 900 euros due to this factor alone. Some foods such as cooking oil, flour, eggs and dairy products, have also tripled in price.

There are also concerns that people will stop going out to eat due to the cost of living crisis.

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