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

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

Chancellor of Austria Karl Nehammer speaks to the press as he arrives to attend an European Union Summit with all 27 EU leaders at The European Council Building in Brussels on December 16, 2021. - The lightning spread of Omicron in Europe and elsewhere has added a sense of urgency to an EU summit on December 16, 2021, with leaders struggling to present a united, bloc-wide approach. (Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard / various sources / AFP)
Chancellor of Austria Karl Nehammer speaks to the press as he arrives to attend an European Union Summit with all 27 EU leaders at The European Council Building in Brussels on December 16, 2021. - (Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard / various sources / AFP)

Austria opens classes for Ukrainian refugee children

Around 2,300 children and young students who have fled the war in Ukraine are already going to school in Austria, with 800 of them attending regular classes in Vienna, Der Standard reports.

The capital has opened ten new “New in Vienna” classrooms for Ukrainian children. Each can host 25 kids, and they have not yet been fully occupied. German support classes are also being offered to the new students.

Austria has seen teachers coming back from retirement to help with the task of accommodating the new kids, but the search for staff is still ongoing. The Ministry of Education has also agreed on an “unbureaucratic way” to hire educators who have fled Ukraine.

READ ALSO: How Austrian states are preparing for Ukrainian refugees

Summit marathon

Yesterday, there were meetings between EU leaders, NATO allies, and G7 members to discuss new sanctions against Russia.

Austria, neither a NATO nor a G7 member, participated in the EU summit.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) told broadcaster ORF that the EU leaders were working on becoming independent of Russian gas, but that takes time. The politicians appealed to the unity of the EU, saying that some member states who don’t need Russian gas can demand further sanctions, but not those who are dependent on the Kremlin exports.

Nehammer said that the leaders discussed other easy to further tighten sanctions looking to ultimately reach a ceasefire in Ukraine, including stopping European exports of components that are used by the Russian army.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why isn’t Austria in NATO?

Austria to start ‘strategic gas reserve’

The Austrian parliament yesterday decided to create a strategic gas reserve for the country as a direct result of the Russian war against Ukraine, ORF said.

The decision was approved by ÖVP and Greens, as well as opposition parties SPÖ and FPÖ. Only NEOS voted against the measure, stating that it would not reduce dependence on Russian gas.

Speakers from all major parties regretted the need for a gas reserve, especially after the environmental efforts to phase out gas and fossil fuels. Still, they said it was a necessary measure to ensure the security of supply for households.

READ ALSO: Can Austria reduce its dependency on Russian gas? 

Climate demonstrations

Cities in Austria are expected to host several demonstrations as part of the global climate strike this Friday. The “FridaysForFuture” demonstration should take place in Vienna’s first district, running from Stubentor via Ringstraße all the way to Praterstern, from about 1:30pm.

READ ALSO: How Vienna plans to expand its tram and park & ride systems for commuters

National Council extended access to citizenship for Nazi victims

On Wednesday, the National Council unanimously extended the right for descendants of Nazi victims to accept Austrian citizenship, according to Der Standard.

Legislators had to amend a law approved in 2019, creating the possibility for descendants of Nazi persecuted people to acquire citizenship under facilitated conditions.

At the time, however, people whose ancestors were murdered or deported by the Nazi regime were left out because of an error in the wording of the regulation. This was now corrected.

READ ALSO: How descendants of victims of Nazism can apply for Austrian citizenship

Austria won’t be playing this year’s football World Cup

After a 2-1 loss against Wales last night for the semi-finals of the World Cup qualification, the Austrian team is definitely not playing in Qatar this year. The national football squad had failed to guarantee a spot in this year’s FIFA tournament during the group stage and was playing to secure one of the few remaining spots.

Austria has qualified for seven FIFA World Cups, most recently in 1998. Its best result was third place in 1954, but football is still a popular sport in the country, and fans were hopeful.

Now, the future of the team coach Franco Foda is in question, with some media outlets saying that his days “are numbered” with very low chances of a contract renewal after it expires in less than a week.

READ ALSO: Six of the best things to do in spring in Vienna

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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.


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. 


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.