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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Austria's Chancellor looks at skimming profits from partially state-owned companies, staff shortages in many professions in Austria and more news on Friday.

People enjoying the sun at the Danube canal in Vienna, Austria on Thursday May 5
People sit in the sun at the Danube canal in Vienna, Austria on May 5, 2022. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austrian Chancellor will look at how to skim-off profits of state-owned companies

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer has said his government will consider how to legally skim off profits from state-owned companies which are benefiting from global crises – for example because of high energy prices. An order has already been given to the Ministry of Finance and Economics, Nehammer told the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper.

“Random profits from state-owned companies belong to the people and not to the companies alone. New regulations are needed,” he said. Nehammer’s surprise statements caused the share of the partially state-owned energy company Verbund to slip by almost 13 percent.

The shares of the Lower Austrian electricity supplier EVN, which is 51 percent owned by the state of Lower Austria, also slipped by more than seven percent. Shares in the partially state-owned OMV energy company dropped by 2.8 percent. Österreichische Beteiligungs AG (ÖBAG) – Austria’s sovereign wealth fund – has a 31.5 percent stake in OMV.

The President of the Aktienforum (which represents the interests of Austrian listed companies) Robert Ottel described Nehammer’s statements as “surprising and shocking at the same time”. The Federation of Industrialists (IV) was also “concerned”, stating: “Even the public consideration of such arbitrary interventions undermines trust in the predictability of the legal framework in Austria and leads to a reluctance to invest,” broadcaster ORF reports.

Staff shortages in nursing, social work, teaching, kindergartens, restaurants, hotels and shops in Austria 

The Krone newspaper has drawn up a list of the jobs with the greatest number of staff shortages in Austria. It says it is currently easy to find a job in  nursing, social work, teaching, kindergartens, restaurants, hotels and shops in Austria.

According to the newspaper, around 80 beds in nursing homes in Vienna are lying empty due to a lack of staff,  there is concern in Austria about social worker shortages, 567 teaching positions in Vienna are vacant, and many staff have abandoned jobs in the restaurant or retail industries because of the pandemic and anti-social working hours.

Thousands of children do not know enough German to follow lessons in Austrian schools

Around 60 percent of children who have to take special classes at elementary school because their German is not at the required level were born in Austria and had previously attended German-speaking kindergartens. 

The former ÖVP-FPÖ federal government introduced German remedial classes in 2018 for students who could not take part in class due to a lack of German language skills and were classified as “außerordentlich” or “extraordinary”.

Many children fall into this group, especially in Vienna. In the 2020/21 school year, according to the current data from Statistics Austria, every seventh pupil in the elementary school was listed as extraordinary. A total of 10,484 Viennese elementary school students with German problems received extraordinary status. Of these, 4,526 attended a German remedial class.

The ÖVP Party is now calling for parents of children who do not pass the school language test during assessment at kindergarten to attend a parenting course run by the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF) – or a compulsory German course. In addition, the party believes “almost all” brochures and information from the city of Vienna should only be available in German, Der Standard newspaper reports.

The City of Vienna has refused to comply with this request, and says it will increase the number of language support teachers from 300 to 500. The City of Vienna only has responsibility for kindergartens, schools fall underneath the responsibility of the federal government.

READ MORE: Ten things you will notice as a parent with a child in school in Austria

Austrian economic minister rejects gas embargo

Austria has again emphasised its opposition to an embargo for Russian gas supplies. “A gas embargo is a clear red line for Austria,” Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) told the newspapers of the German Funke Group.

She also said Austria was unable to use its own tax money to buy gas for Germany, saying: “We can use Austrian tax money to make provisions for the storage facilities that serve Austrian needs. But we cannot buy gas for Germany, France or the Netherlands with Austrian tax money,” broadcaster ORF reports. Germany has a large gas storage facility in Austria, in Haidach, which is currently almost empty.  

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

Austrians do not want to join NATO

People in Austria remain opposed to NATO membership according to a survey for the APA press agency. Just 14 percent of Austrians are in favour of joining NATO, while 75 percent reject the idea. 

The majority of Austrians are also sceptical when it comes to Ukraine’s accession to the European Union, with 38 percent in favour, but 46 percent against. The rest are still undecided. 

When asked if neutrality still protects Austria today, 52 percent answered yes. But at least 40 percent are not of the opinion that neutrality protects Austria from military threats. Around 83 percent of Austrians would like closer coordination among the EU member states on security and defence policy.

EXPLAINED: The history behind Austria’s neutrality

Austria’s Green Pass cost 22.5 million euros

Austria’s test infrastructure (12.9 million euros), the IT implementation of the Green Pass (7.5 million euros) and the E-Vaccination card (2.1 million euros) cost in total almost 22.5 million euros in 2021 and 2022. This information was released by Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) n response to a request from Austria’s NEOS party. 

Since Austria eased its strict pandemic measures, more and more people are letting their vaccination certificates expire, broadcaster ORF  reports, so their vaccinations are no longer valid.  Around 67.9 percent of Austrians currently have a valid vaccination. That’s around 6.1 million people, but more than 27,000 fewer than a week ago.

EXPLAINED: What should I do if my Austrian Green Pass is expiring?

Seven day incidence falls to 433.9

The 7-day incidence, or the number of new infections with Covid-19 in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 433.9. The number is highest in Burgenland (599.6) and in Vienna (594.4). The value is lowest in Styria (278.9) and in Tyrol (293.0).

18,222 people have died from or in connection with the coronavirus, 1,081 infected people are currently being treated in a hospital, 84 of them in intensive care units.

Freedom of information law in Austria could soon be put into place

Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) has said she hopes that a freedom of information law will soon become a reality. “The right to free information must be in the constitution,” she said on Thursday at a panel discussion on corruption, broadcaster ORF reports. She was also confident that a reviewed law could be implemented “soon”. The draft has been on the waiting list for months.

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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Heatwave peaks today, Lake Neusiedl at record low levels, calls to increase mileage allowance, expert advises on fourth Covid-19 jab and more news from Austria on Thursday.

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

Current heatwave will peak today

The current heatwave will peak in the east today (Thursday). It could reach 37 degrees today, and will be followed by a deluge of rain. It has been above 30 degrees every day since last Saturday in Austria. 

Water shortages vary across Austria

The situation with water shortages varies across Austria following this year’s long dry summer. The situation is particularly precarious in Burgenland, where  Lake Neusiedl is currently 114.94 meters above the level of the Adriatic Sea. This is the lowest water level since records began in 1965. The Seewinkel has also been hit hard, according to broadcaster ORF .

However, in Vienna the water levels are low in the Wienerwald streams and the Danube, but not extremely so.

IN PICTURES: How drought and extreme heat are affecting Austria

New allegations against Hygiene Austria

A new scandal has hit Hygiene Austria and Palmers, the company which produces Austria’s FFP2 masks. The Standard newspaper alleges that Palmers may have carried out  tax evasion, using fake receipts. Up to 693,000 euros of customs and import sales taxes may have been evaded, the paper claims. Palmers and Hygiene Austria reject the allegations.

The company previously hit the headlines after ordering masks from China which it mislabeled as “made in Austria” during the pandemic. 

Possible reductions in energy bills for Altbau

There are plans to reduce gas bills for people renting an Altbau, or old buildings, which often fall under rent control laws. The Ministry of Justice, led by Alma Zadic (Greens), is looking into how a price reduction for gas heating for people could be implemented. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler has pointed out tenants have no power to change their heating systems and suffer from high bills as a result. Kogler also intends to create incentives for apartment building owners and landlords to convert to renewable heating systems, broadcaster ORF reports.

Calls to increase mileage allowance in Austria

The GPA union is calling for the Kilometergeldes (mileage allowance ) to be increased from the current 42 to 60 cents. This is a lump-sum payment for costs incurred when you use your own car for business trips. According to GPA chairwoman Barbara Teiber, speaking to ORF, there hasn’t been an adjustment for inflation for 14 years. 

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

Recommendation to get fourth Covid-19 jab before autumn wave

According to the vaccination expert Herwig Kollaritsch, people should get their fourth vaccinations now before Covid-19 starts to pick up again with the start of school, full workplaces and cooler temperatures. He said the new CoV variants BA4 and BA5, meant people have less immunity following an infection. If the last vaccination was six months ago, he would now recommend getting a fourth jab. It is up to the individual to decide if they want to wait for the new modified vaccine which targets the Omicron variant, which was recently approved for use in Great Britain as people risk becoming infected while waiting for the vaccine, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: When should you get your fourth vaccine dose?

Pension increase to be announced today

The government is set to announce the statutory pension increase today (Thursday). The increase is expected to be at least 5.8 percent. Negotiations will start next week on whether there will be full cost-of-living adjustments or not. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) has previously said that the government could add another two to 2.5 percent to the around 5.8 percent. However, this would still mean that it would be below inflation.

READ MORE: Why (and when) double-digit inflation is set to hit Austria

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