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TODAY IN AUSTRIA

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

Nehammer calls on Gazprom to fill gas storage, care staff demo, billions spent on short term work and more news on Friday.

A man rides his bicycle through the deserted Helden square on a rainy day in Vienna,
It might get a little rainy today after the heatwave. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Nehammer calls on Gazprom to fill empty Salzburg gas storage facility

Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) has called on the Russian energy giant Gazprom to refill its large gas storage facility in Haidach  immediately. The storage facility in Salzburg is currently empty according to data from the European industry association GIE. Nehammer told the “Kleine Zeitung” newspaper he would not nationalize the Gazprom storage facility, although Haidach is strategically important for both Germany and western federal states in Austria. Nehammer said if Gazprom did not fill the storage facility, other energy companies should use it.

He also reiterated his plan to skim profits off energy companies, saying he had asked  the Minister of Finance to “draw up proposals.” During the wide-ranging interview he also said he did not support the idea of a European army.

Thousands of care staff demonstrate for better pay and conditions

Around 10,000 people took part in a demonstration for better pay and condition for care workers in Vienna on Thursday. Workers also made demands for a 30 or 35 hour week and more staff. As the Local reported on Thursday, the Austrian government unveiled a care reform package on the same day as the demonstration to coincide with national nurses day. The demonstration was organised by the “Health Offensive” group, an association of the trade unions vida, GÖD, Gpa, Younion, the Vienna Medical Association, the Chamber of Labor and the ÖGB.

READ MORE: More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

Short time work cost Austria 9.5 billion euros during the pandemic lockdowns

From March 2020 to the end of March 2022, government spending on Covid short-time work amounted to 9.56 billion euros, according to a report by Labor Minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) to the Social Affairs Committee of the National Council.

 In a committee discussing the findings, Kocher spoke out in favour of restricting short-time work with stricter access rules. Entrepreneurial risk should not be offset by short-time work, he said, according to a report by broadcaster ORF.

One Covid-19 pandemic initiative, which allowed parents to be released from work if they had to look after their children at home during to the pandemic, cost around 20.1 million euros in total.  

Vienna trials Supergrätzel in Favoriten

Vienna is hoping to emulate Barcelona and implement a Supergrätzel, or superblock in the capital’s Favoriten district. Barcelona began rolling out its traffic free superblocks in 2016, and managed to reduce noise and pollution in parts of the city. 

 The area between Gudrunstrasse, Leebgasse, Quellenstrasse and Neilreichgasse in Favoriten has been chosen as the pilot area. The goals are traffic calming, increasing the quality of stay and reducing heat islands. This should be made possible through traffic-calming and funnelling traffic to the outer borders of the quarter. Residents will have the final say over the pilot project and if it should continue.  

The Krone reports the Supergrätzel pilot phase will last until September.

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For members

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. 

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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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