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

Record increase in household energy costs, Germany's concerns over gas storage in Austria and more news on Thursday.

A couple sit in front of a tree
Beautiful spring weather in Austria today. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Household energy 42.4 percent more expensive in March in a yearly comparison

Household energy was 42.4 percent more expensive in March compared to the previous year – a record value, according to the Austrian Energy Agency.

In February, the price increase was “only” 27.4 percent. The cost of fuels, heating oil and gas drove prices up in March. All other energy sources were also more expensive than in the previous year. 

Fuel also rose sharply in March, fuelled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, more than doubling compared to March 2021 with an increase of 118.5 percent. Diesel is 55 percent more expensive than last year,  premium petrol has gone up by 45.3 percent.and natural gas is 73 percent more expensive.

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

Bavaria writes to Austria’s Chancellor over gas storage in Salzburg

The Prime Minister of Bavaria Markus Söder (CSU) has written to Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer about a gas depot which is lying empty in Austria. The gas depot in Haidach, Salzburg is the second largest gas storage facility in Central Europe, and provides gas to Bavaria’s chemical industries, broadcaster ORF reports. Söder wants to ensure that the storage facility is filled up again. The German government has passed a law which requires gas storage tanks to be filled over the summer, but as this tank is in Austria, Germany has no legal means to require it to be filled. 

Another problem is that Haidach is about two-thirds owned by Gazprom, which emptied it after it was apparently already below average for “strategic reasons,” according to Bavaria’s Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger, in the “Passauer Neue Presse” (PNP).

Although the gas stored in Salzburg’s Haidach is intended for the German market, the storage facility could also be used by the Austrian side in an emergency. This probably affects Tyrol and Vorarlberg in particular, which get all their gas supplies via Germany.

It remains to be seen whether the strategic gas reserve approved in Austria this week will also affect the filling of the German storage facility in Haidach – according to media reports, the gas reserve is to be distributed across all storage facilities in the country by June. However, the newspaper “Focus” reports that Bavaria and Austria are already cooperating together over the gas supply.

READ MORE: How Austria plans to secure enough energy for next winter

Russian oil ‘will continue to flow’ to Austria after oil  embargo

Although no Russian oil has been processed in Austria since March, Austria gets around ten percent of its domestic diesel from Slovakia, which along with Hungary will be offered an exemption from the Russian oil embargo until  the end of 2023. Austria also imports other processed products such as diesel, petrol and heating oil from Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Germany accounts for the largest part of imports, followed by Italy and Slovakia.

Around ten percent of domestic diesel comes from Slovakia, which in turn imports crude oil from Russia. According to the International Energy Agency, Hungary and Slovakia import 96 and 58 percent, respectively, of their oil from Russia.

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?

According to figures from Statistics Austria, Austria imported processed crude oil from Hungary and Slovakia worth 372.5 million euros in 2020. In the case of diesel, which is more important in terms of volume, ten percent of imports come from Slovakia and three percent from Hungary. In the case of petrol, 30 percent of imports come from Slovakia. Der Standard says experts believe it may even become cheaper for Austria to import processed oil from Slovakia and Hungary if Russia has to sell its oil at a discount due to the embargo.

Austrian Greens are abandoning their pacifist beliefs 

According to Der Standard newspaper, Austria’s Green party is leaving its pacifist ideals behind due to the war in Ukraine. It quotes Peter Steyrer, a former key figure in the Austrian peace movement for decades, saying: “I was once a pacifist.” Steyrer, a longtime Green Party employee, is currently an advisor on EU and international politics in the office of Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler. Steyrer says while in theory he is still a pacifist, there are situations in which military means are “unavoidable”. The newspaper notes that Steyrer mentions the Austrian Greens are still in a happier place than the German Greens, thanks to their country’s neutrality.

Liberation of Austrian Concentration Camp remembered 

Austria commemorated the liberation of the Gusen concentration camp in Upper Austria in 1945 on Wednesday. Austria’s Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen noted that mistakes had been made in the past by Austria, stating: “Gusen was not as present in our culture of remembrance as it should have been”. He said Austria would do everything possible to make the area a place “worthy of the memory of all victims”. The camp only features a small memorial. Broadcaster ORF reports Poland, where many victims came from, has put pressure on Austria for years to create a more dignified commemoration and even offered to buy the land on the site. This year, the Republic of Austria finally bought the former roll call area, the gravel crusher and two SS administration buildings. In the coming years they are to be integrated into the existing Gusen Memorial.

The first memorial at the Gusen camp was was financed and put up by international survivor associations, on a private basis, and it was not until 1997 that the Republic of Austria assumed responsibility for the memorial and in 2004 set up a visitor center with a permanent exhibition

Vienna reveals “Cooling Zones” plans for summer

The City of Vienna will once again offer “Cooling Zones” this summer aimed at vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, small children, the homeless and people with chronic illnesses, broadcaster ORF reports. These zones, in accessible buildings, will give Viennese residents a chance to cool down when Vienna’s temperatures go over 30 degrees.

Outdoor work is also to be promoted further. As trialled in the in Ottakring district shady workplaces in parks with WiFi should be available as a cool alternative to the office. The range of public drinking fountains is to be expanded.

 By 2025, the city of Vienna wants to increase the production of solar power fivefold and plant 25,000 new city trees.

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For members


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

Authorities looking to curb illegal racing, energy prices rising, traffic expected ahead of the extended weekend and more news from Austria on Friday.

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

Vienna wants to take action against speeding drivers

The City of Vienna is looking for ways to deal with illegal races across its street, especially in its 19th-Döbling district, where accidents happen too often, daily Der Standard reported.

Some measures have already been taken, including adding concrete guard walls in parking lots where racers meet and adding a 30km/h speed zone.

Now, Viennese authorities want changes in laws at a federal level, specifically a way to legally confiscate cars in cases of serious infractions or multiple offences.

READ ALSO: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Rising energy costs

Austrian households paid 45 percent more for energy in June than in the same month the year before, Die Presse says. The prices of fuels, heating oil and gas have risen sharply. Wood pellets and firewood are also more expensive.

When it comes to electricity and gas, many providers are also increasing prices.

In addition to the gas crisis, other factors also affected the price of electricity: drought in large parts of Europe reduces production in river power plants. Besides that, many nuclear power plants are not in operation due to technical defects; others have to be throttled because the rivers used for cooling lead were either too warm or had too little water.

“The high prices are a signal for diversification towards more wind power, photovoltaics, and geothermal energy and at the same time, more energy efficiency and energy saving”, Austria’s Energy Agency said.

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

Austria wants to reopen its embassy in Baghdad

Austria is looking to reopen its embassy in Iraq by September 1st, daily Kurier reported. The Austrian ambassador left Baghdad in January 1991, with other Western diplomats, due to security reasons.

According to the Kurier, the embassy in Baghdad is now to be “housed in a protected, international area as a first step”, with security forces hired locally. The authorities believe permanent representation in the country will be a “decisive advantage” for Austrian companies and organisations.

Additionally, a specific officer in the embassy should inform Vienna of “current developments and the prevailing situation in Iraq” and, in particular, any news on the topic of migration.

READ ALSO: MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Traffic and troubles for the extended weekend ahead

Austria’s ÖAMTC expects heavy travel on the country’s transit routes ahead of the long weekend and warned motorists to expect traffic jams and queues by the borders.

The transport club said many travellers continue to drive south while some are already driving in the opposite direction returning from vacation. The extended weekend due to the Monday holiday (Mariä Himmelfahrt) also favours day trips and short breaks, especially with the nice weather forecast.

The worst traffic should be divided into Sunday and Monday, ÖAMTC warns.

READ ALSO: ‘Bad and hasty drivers’: Your verdict on scrapping Austrian autobahn speed limits

Heat and thunderstorms this Friday in Austria

Though the day starts sunny in most of Austria, the afternoon should bring showers and thunderstorms, especially above the mountains. In the east, it should be more stable and sunny, Austria’s meteorologic agency ZAMG said. Afternoon temperatures will be between 22C and 27C.

During the evening hours, the rain will subside and dry weather generally prevails. Low temperatures will be between 8C and 17C.

“In Vienna, sunny weather prevails, even if clouds seem denser. Short rains cannot be ruled out”, ZAMG says. Afternoon temperatures will be around 27C. The night will be around 16C.

READ ALSO: Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms