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EXPLAINED: What would ‘Austrian-style neutrality’ mean for Ukraine?

Russia has demanded Ukraine adopt 'Austrian-style neutrality'. But what does that mean?

Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen (R) and his wife Doris Schmidauer (L) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (2ndR) and his wife Olena Zelenska (2ndL) listen to the national anthems in Vienna, Austria on September 15, 2020, during a welcoming ceremony at the beginning of Zelensky's state visit. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen (R) and his wife Doris Schmidauer (L) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (2ndR) and his wife Olena Zelenska (2ndL) listen to the national anthems in Vienna, Austria on September 15, 2020, during a welcoming ceremony at the beginning of Zelensky's state visit. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The Kremlin on Wednesday called for Kyiv to adopt a status similar to Sweden and Austria, describing it as a “compromise” option as the two countries grind through conflict talks nearly three weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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

But Kyiv quickly rejected the proposal, saying talks with Moscow to end fighting should focus on “security guarantees”.

But what exactly would ‘Austrian neutrality’ look like in Ukraine?

In Austria, the policy of neutrality was imposed by the then Soviet Union as a price for the end of the Allies’ post-war occupation of the country in 1955.

“Neutrality is part of the country’s identity,” says Martin Senn, political scientist at Innsbruck university.

The policy offered the country an honourable way of exiting the rubble of World War II and avoiding the blame for complicity in the Nazi regime.

Ukraine conflict: Would NATO protect non-member Austria?

It then made use of its status to host high-profile international organisations and summits including between then US president John F Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev in 1961, and their successors Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev in 1979.

However, since the end of the Cold War, Austria has taken several steps towards the Western camp. It joined the European Union in 1995 and participated in the joint security and defence policy outlined in the 2009 Lisbon treaty.

Austria has said its neutrality does not prevent it from condemning breaches of international law and has condemned the invasion of Ukraine.

EXPLAINED: Why isn’t Austria in NATO?

But according to Senn, there has never been “a true discussion on the issue of neutrality”, which is now “urgently needed”.

Military figures have also spoken out in favour of more defence spending, a stance backed by the public in a recent survey.

In the EU, only Ireland and Malta spend a lower share of their GDP on defence than in Austria, where the figure stands at 0.7 percent.

EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland’s neutrality has always been ‘malleable’

Austria’s government — headed by ex-soldier Karl Nehammer — has said it wants to boost this to one percent to match neighbouring Switzerland.

Despite this, Nehammer has ruled out any change to the country’s officially neutral status.

Looking at the opinion polls, it’s not hard to see why — despite the war, four out of five Austrians are still opposed to the idea of joining NATO.

Member comments

  1. Being a neutral country has been a positive development if Austrian history, it helped them get through the cold war and they still joined the EU like similar likeminded nations.

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POLITICS

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

Politicians in Austria are getting a 5.3 percent salary increase in 2023 as inflation rises in the country. So how much will they earn?

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

The rising inflation rate, which is expected to be at 10.6 percent in November, is reflected in the salaries of politicians in Austria, according to the official gazette of the Wiener Zeitung.

According to Austrian law, all salaries are calculated based on the income of the members of the National Council, the Austrian Parliament. Next year, they will receive €9,873 gross per month – €497 more than their salaries in 2022. The values were rounded to the whole euro amount. 

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

So, how much are the leading politicians going to earn as a monthly gross salary in 2023?

  • Bundespräsident: the head of the Austrian State (Federal President) will earn €26,701 per month. Alexander Van der Bellen was reelected to the position and should stay in the job for six more years
  • Bundeskanzler: the head of the Austrian government (Chancellor) will earn €23,840 per month. That’s the salary of Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), who is expected to run for reelection in the next national elections set for 2024
  • Vizekanzler: the current vice-chancellor is Werner Kögler (Greens), and he is set to earn €20,979 from 2023
  • NR-Präsident: this refers to the leader of the National Council (Nationalrat, in German), who earns €20,026. Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) holds the position
  • Landeshauptleute: this German word literally means “main persons of the province”. (Land means country, but it actually refers to the bundesländer, the country’s states or provinces). These are the current governors of the Austrian provinces, such as Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), mayor of the city-state of Vienna. They’ll earn €19,072 per month
  • Ministerin/Minister: Ministers of the federal government, including Health and Social Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), will earn €19,072 every month
  • Landesrätin/-rat: the provincial councillors should earn €17,771 every month from 2023
  • Staatssekretärin/-sekretär: State secretaries, who play the part of Ministers in the provincial level, will earn €17,165
  • Bundesratsmitglieder: a “member of the Bundesrat”, which is the upper house in the Austrian parliament, will earn €4,936 per month

READ ALSO: Explained: How to understand your payslip in Austria

In Austria, hired employees are paid 14 times per year, with extra salaries ahead of summer holidays and Christmas.

Unless the National Council decides against the pay rise, the increase will come into effect on January 1st 2023.

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